Back to school: A run-down of Woodstock health hazards

maskIt’s a sad situation for any neighborhood, but it’s not unique: Back-to-school time throughout Portland now means assessing the risks to your child’s health. Here’s a run-down of the factors in play for Woodstock Elementary and Lewis Elementary, the two public schools within the Woodstock neighborhood boundary. At many of the links below, you’ll see paths to learn about schools outside the neighborhood.

Parents: If you have late-breaking or close-up facts not seen here, please add them in your comments below.

Lead in water

As you may already know, concerns about lead poisoning center on ingestion rather than skin contact. Drinking fountains are shut down across the district, but faucets for washing hands are still working. Make sure younger kids understand not to drink from the working faucets.

With kids drinking bottled water for now, the risk of further lead ingestion is low. However, the recent past is another matter: Test results on record for Lewis and Woodstock show plenty of instances in which fountains, faucets and spigots tested above the EPA action threshold for lead and copper.

Lead in paint

While the likelihood of kids ingesting paint chips or paint dust is low compared to tainted water, lead paint is still cause for concern. Willamette Week has reported that Woodstock School was flagged with the district’s second-highest maintenance priority for deteriorating paint conditions on outdoor wood siding. Lewis does not appear on the list that WW released — but the district’s rather dubiously named Healthy Schools Update includes Lewis (and Woodstock) on a list of schools for which it “hired four certified lead paint contractors to abate or encapsulate a large number of critical district needs this summer.”


Radon is a gas that occurs with the natural decay of radium in the soil. If present, it can build up in ground-floor rooms that lack ventilation. It’s linked to occurrences of lung cancer. In a new round of testing that began in spring 2016, nearly one in every eight rooms tested for radon were above the EPA’s initial action threshold. However, neither Woodstock nor Lewis has been tested yet. Their readings were low in a previous round of tests during the 2001-02 school year.

Outdoor air

Things don’t seem to have changed appreciably since our previous post on Woodstock neighborhood air. Known hotspots for heavy metals are not present at Woodstock or Lewis schools, but are not far away. Precision Castparts, the suspected source of the hotspots, either already has installed or soon will install new filters — so things may be looking up a bit.

Speeding traffic

On SE Steele near Woodstock School, recent observation by a WNA board member suggests that 60 to 70 percent of people driving through the school zone are speeding. In such conditions, even striped crosswalk markings are no guarantee of safety. Approach crossings with all senses keenly attuned. And please: In a motor vehicle, slow down to below the maximum legal speed of 20 mph during school-zone hours — moreover, test your knowledge of Oregon crosswalk law, including the fact that every intersection is a crosswalk whether marked or not.

Lewis School may be less likely to see speeders who divert from Woodstock Boulevard’s increasing bustle. But Lewis parents, please add your own observations in comments below.

Where to get lead testing

If your child has already been drinking PPS water for years, you may be concerned about lead levels. Check with your doctor about whether to get lead testing. If you decide to go for it, consider Multnomah County’s free lead testing clinic on September 10, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Sellwood-Moreland Library.

PPS has stated that you can also order home screening kits from ZRT labs through September 9. Call 1-866-600-1636 or 503-466-2445 Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. — or order via email at