Lead Contamination in Schools’ Drinking Water Worse Than Previously Thought

Students throughout the country reportedly are drinking lead-contaminated water in their schools. There's now a call to action by environmental groups. Photo Credit: pixnio.com

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BOSTON — As schools begin summer break, environmental groups are urging public officials to take swift action to “get the lead out” of drinking water in schools.

A new interactive map by Environment America and U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) shows lead contamination in the tap water of schools throughout the country.

According to John Rumpler, program director for Environment America, schools from Texas to Oregon, New Jersey and Maine show high levels of lead. He said there’s an ever-present risk of contamination in our nation’s schools. It’s in the water delivery system, pipes, plumbing, fixtures, and in the faucets.

“The most fundamental solution to the problem is to get the lead out,” Rumpler said; “to actually remove the lead-bearing parts in the water-delivery system so that our water for our children can be safe.”

Medical experts estimate that across the country, upwards of 24 million children will lose IQ points because of exposure to low levels of lead.

Rumpler pointed out the fastest and least expensive way to reduce the problem right away would be for schools to install filters that are certified to remove lead on every faucet and every fountain used for drinking or cooking.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said school drinking water should not contain more than one part per billion of lead contamination. But the study found some schools with levels as high as 22,000 parts per billion.

According to Rumpler, no level of lead is safe for children, and the goal should be for all of it to be removed.

“We’re calling on school districts and state regulators across the country to take action on this issue, and to ensure that school districts have the funds that they need to undertake this critical health-protective task,” he said.

As schools break for summer, environmental groups say it’s a great time for lead remediation. They urge parents and teachers to contact their elected officials and demand they be proactive and “get the lead out” of schools’ drinking water to protect students’ health.

The interactive map is visible at https://environmentamerica.org/feature/ame/get-lead-out.