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Other Views: State should fund lead testing

Schools in the Bend-La Pine district were tested for lead in drinking water recently, and all came up with a clean bill of health. Other districts in the area will test this summer, and it's likely Bend-La Pine will have to test again.

That's because the state Board of Education is considering rules governing pollutants such as lead and radon. If the rules are adopted as expected in August, what's been done so far is unlikely to be enough.

Lead and radon are at the forefront these days in part because the Portland school district found too much of both in some schools earlier this year. Similar problems turned up in Eugene, Beaverton and Gresham.

As a result, the state Department of Education is creating rules for districts requiring healthy and safe facilities plans for every building districts own or use as schools or public charter schools.

Assuming the rules are adopted, the plans are likely to call for testing of every drinking fountain and sink in each building for lead. In addition, schools will have to test for lead in paint, dirt and dust, and they'll have to test for radon gas.

As the federal Environmental Protection Agency notes on its website, lead is particularly dangerous to children, and the younger the child, the greater the danger.

This is going to cost money, and unless the state funds it, the burden will fall on individual school districts. The Legislature needs to ensure districts have the money to do the testing.