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Oakland middle schoolers raise alarm about lead in soil

Sixth graders at an Oakland middle school are calling on public officials to remediate high levels of lead in the soil at their school and in their neighborhood.

As reported by Oaklandside, the students, who attend United for Success Academy, in Fruitvale, a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Oakland, tested lead levels in the soil at their school, at a nearby park and at their homes, with the help of an environmental justice organization.

They found lead levels of 997 parts per million (ppm) on their campus, 800 ppm at nearby Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, and 728 ppm at their own homes. Those levels are far above the 400 ppm limit that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for areas where children play.

The students organized a town hall to share what they learned with their neighbors and give them kits to test their own soil, and they came up with some ideas for solutions, like covering soil that contains lead with fake grass or sod.

The neighborhood has been a known hot spot for lead poisoning, with high levels of lead found in children’s blood in past years. A recent lawsuit settlement will give millions to Alameda County and Oakland to address lead contamination.