Lead In School Drinking Water
Lead in schools is a well-known concern at this point. The current action level, set over 30 years ago, allows for 15 parts per billion (PPB). However, studies show that even with 7 PPB children's brains are being affected negatively. So even water that has been deemed safe by EPA standards still poses a huge risk to our kids. What we know is children absorb 85% of the lead they consume. Lead affects the central nervous system resulting in decreased cognitive function, lack of concentration, and overall problems with growth and development.
Lead is not just found in the drinking fountain itself. It can originate from the lead pipes in the streets, lead connection pipes that were installed prior to 1960, in lead solder joints prior to 1986, and more recently in old brass fountains installed prior to 2014. This leaves a lot of opportunity for lead to be introduced to the water supply and the only want to stop it is at the point of use. Lead is not only a problem in schools as we saw in Flint Michigan. It can affect city water as well.
Recent testing in North Carolina found that 1 in 10 licensed child care facilities have at least one drinking source with lead contamination. However, it is possible that we don’t even know the extent of the problem with testing being done because the way testing is conducted is hugely important in getting accurate readings. It is possible to take two different samples at any given time that yield different results. The reason being, water that sat for hours in the pipes will have higher reading of lead than if the water flushes for several minutes before being tested. Because of this discrepancy it is possible for districts to also make the lead problem appear less apparent than it may be. Without this knowledge we are at the mercy of the school districts to ensure our children are safe; However, they are not safe even if the water falls below the acceptable minimum as it has not been changed to reflect more current research as pointed out earlier.
So what is being done about it? Some schools and counties that have faced lead contamination provide bottled water for children or residents. This is not a sustainable solution and leaves a huge carbon footprint behind. Some districts around the country have installed filters next to all the water fountains that filter out the lead at the point of use. The filters do not just filter to the 15 PPB threshold but completely eradicate the problem.
What can you do about it? If you are concerned about the potential for lead in your children’s school you can talk to the principal, administrators, and superintendents to see when the last testing was done and what the levels were. You can advocate for the district to implement safe standards that may even be below the current action level since it is grossly outdated. You can partner with local advocacy groups that are already out there trying to protect our children such as Ed NC. Many of these issues were highlighted in their recent article as well. We need to hold out schools and daycare facilities accountable for the health and well-being of our children while they are in their care. There are simple solutions to this problem and no child should suffer from lead exposure.