The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently found 278 schools and daycare centers with lead levels higher than the federal limit—and those numbers only reflect schools that operate their own water systems. While most schools access water through municipal water utilities that regularly test their water, that testing cannot identify high levels of lead in the buildings and pipes themselves.
According to the EPA, even low levels of lead exposure in children have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.
- Butler, Pennsylvania – The school district is testing and replacing fixtures after testing found elevated levels of lead.
- Newark, New Jersey – Turned off water fountains in 30 school and ordered blood tests of 17,000 students after tests revealed high levels of lead in more than half of the district’s schools.
- Portland, Oregon – Portland’s longtime school superintendent recently stepped down after it was revealed that the district kept test results secret that showed two schools with high levels of lead for several months.
While some states such as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are working on legislation that would require testing in its schools, many other states have not—which makes it even more important for public organizations such as schools to get a plan in place to test, identify and correct the problem.
What You Can Do
The EPA outlines several steps you can take:
- Rule out contamination from your source. Water systems are required by the EPA to distribute an annual water quality report, or Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) by July 1 every year.
- Have your entity’s water tested. Your local or state drinking water authority should provide a list of certified laboratories.
- Install water filters and treatment devices specifically designed to remove lead.
- Make a practice of flushing pipes after facilities have been turned off for awhile, such as over spring, summer and winter breaks.
About the Author
Bob Marinelli, ARM, CPSI, RSSP is risk control manager for San Antonio, Texas-based Trident Public Risk Solutions, working with municipalities and schools throughout the United States.