Toxic Lead Detected in Air Near Pilsen School

Lead levels outside the elementary school were higher than local factories and steel mills

By Jaime Elich
|  Friday, Apr 1, 2011  |  Updated 8:05 AM CDT
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Residents in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood have been complaining about a metallic taste in the air for years. Now they know why.

High levels of toxic lead were detected outside an elementary school attended by hundreds of kids.  

New monitoring data obtained by the Chicago Tribune found that average lead levels outside Perez Elementary School were at or above federal limits during three three-month periods last year. Those levels exceeded health standards during a fifth of the days monitored.

More monitors were placed near factories, steel mills and highways in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana. None of them, though, had as many high readings as the monitor on the roof of the Pilsen elementary school.

The findings have prompted a joint investigation by the U.S. and Illinois Environmental Protection agencies.

Officials aren't certain where the lead is coming from, but they've installed a second monitor at nearby Juarez Community Academy. 

Both schools are close to two of the biggest industrial sources of the toxic metal in the Chicago area.

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