What’s the lead level like in your home tap water? How about the water at your child’s school? Since 2014, when lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, hit the headlines, public awareness about this issue has increased. Many experts say there’s good reason for the concern.

Lead is everywhere. it exists in the air we breathe, the water around us and the ground we walk on. If your home was built prior to 1978, chances are good some paint on the wall contains lead and particles are in your house dust. Experts say even low-level exposure can affect the body’s organs, including the brain, such that it can lead to behavioral and learning problems.

Intervention before school

Unfortunately, such issues often remain unidentified until a child is in school. Contributing to the problem is unawareness of the risk. Water testing is now occurring more regularly in many communities but there is no consensus on what constitutes a safe level. Test results also aren’t always widely publicized.

Blood tests can reveal a child’s lead exposure. But again, there is no known safe level. What federal officials do say is that a level of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood is worrisome, but in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set the “level of concern” for young children at just 5 micrograms per deciliter. The question then is, what’s the level of lead in your child’s blood?

Lead poisoning is among the disabilities and conditions identified in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requiring action. Because of that, children between 3 to 21 years of age suffering from exposure are entitled to special services to ensure they get an appropriate public education.

In school, this begins with an individualized education program (IEP) based on a child’s specific needs. The law calls for an IEP review at least once a year to gauge progress and parents are part of the planning team. In addition, if blood tests indicate a child under 3 has been exposed, the IDEA calls for early intervention efforts by the state, mapped through an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

While intervention services are required by law, the only way to be sure they’re delivered is by knowing your rights. If you find yourself in a dispute regarding these matters, consulting an attorney is advised.