High levels of lead have been found in a San Francisco high school classroom, and it is the students who found it.
This is a school project every classroom should do.
Twenty students sent samples they took from windowsills and elsewhere and sent them for lab analysis. The results, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, showed at least one with five-times the acceptable level of lead and others with elevated levels.
Lead has no business in the classroom. A known neuro-toxin, it attacks the brain, harming memory, impairing learning ability and possibly causing erratic and violent behavior. Lead does the most harm to fetuses and young children, but it is certainly nothing that high school students should be exposed to when they're trying to learn.
Here's how the Chronicle described the experiment, which was sponsored by a local environmental group, the Global Community Monitor.
The students collected two samples in November, following scientific procedure as they prepared the plate that would sit undisturbed on a classroom shelf for a week with the window sometimes opened during the day.
The students then swiped the fallout and sent the samples to a EPA-accredited lab.
To replicate the study, teachers would need help from local experts to ensure that the data collection and analysis yields reliable results. They'd also need money enough to pay for the testing no small request at a time when budgets are tight. But given the age of many schools built before lead paint was banned it's not hard to imagine lead dust in the air in schools across the country.
To demonstrate the scientific process, students could be asked first to identify the district's oldest schools and the most vulnerable age groups, form hypotheses about whether and where lead might lurk, then test. If the tests turn up lead, they have good data to take to the school board to demand action and that might be the best science lesson they learn.
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