Health experts estimate that 24 million children are at risk of losing IQ points from even low levels of lead exposure. After widespread lead contamination was found in schools’ drinking water, Environment America Research & Policy Center released a new toolkit to help “Get the Lead Out.” The information in this toolkit can help parents, teachers and schools protect students during the Centers for Disease Control’s “National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week” and throughout the year.
“Clean, safe water should flow from every tap and every faucet in every home and every school,” said John Rumpler, the senior director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s clean water program. “We’ve known for decades that lead can taint our water and poison our bodies. There’s no excuse for it. It’s time to get the lead out of our drinking water.”
Common misconceptions tend to minimize the problem of lead in drinking water. While the crisis in Flint, Michigan, raised general awareness of lead in drinking water, it also created a narrative that only urban communities are at risk of contamination. However, schools in all kinds of places -- including Montana and the suburbs outside Chicago and New York City, are finding lead in their water.
The toolkit stresses the need for schools to pro-actively prevent lead contamination. Many school districts only report instances of lead contamination at 15 parts per billion, even though no level of lead is safe and the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on schools to allow no more than 1 part per billion of lead in drinking water.
“Parents shouldn’t wait for tests to confirm that their children are drinking lead-laced water,” said Rumpler. “If we want to ensure safe water at school, we’ll need to replace lead-bearing parts and install filters on all taps used for cooking or drinking.”
Local, state, and federal officials are slowly beginning to take steps to address drinking water as a source of lead exposure. Most recently, the U.S. Senate voted 99-1 earlier this month in favor of America’s Water Infrastructure Act (S. 3021). The bill would double federal investment in safe drinking water, and establish a small grant program for schools to replace lead-bearing water fountains. Pres. Donald Trump is expected to sign it.
“For nearly a century, our nation created an epidemic of lead poisoning by embedding this potent neurotoxin into the fabric of our lives,” said Rumpler. “Just like we removed lead from paint and gasoline, we must now do the same with the pipes and plumbing that bring water to our taps. Our children’s health depends on it.”