As Children’s Health Month continues, the Environmental Protection Agency has released a memorandum stating its improved action towards eliminating lead contamination in school and childcare water systems. In support of the Lead Action Plan, the EPA’s MOU lists ways partnering agencies, water utilities, and community health specialists can work together to train, identify, and remove lead from children’s drinking water. Read More.
I wonder how many parents, in the excitement of this new school year, were stunned to read this week that there is a good chance that their children’s school drinking water is tainted with lead?
More concerning to me is how many more parents still have no idea whether there is lead in their kids’ school water fountain. Children are more at risk from the danger of lead poisoning than adults and the damage lasts a lifetime. Yet the majority of schools nationally don’t test their water, or if they do, they don’t provide the information to parents.
Despite the danger, there is no national requirement for water in public schools to be tested. In April Scott Pruitt and other high ranking EPA staff told me that they are going back to basics. “Basics” was defined as Superfund and getting lead out of water. EPA created a new website just for lead and water, and hired Dr. Hughes to run the program within EPA.
This raise the question in my mind if they are really serious. If so, wouldn’t public schools be the first place to make a significant impact? In the big splash headlines of their initiative EPA said, “EPA is committed to taking action to address this threat, and improve health outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens – our children.” Clearly they know what population is at highest risk so where’s the action? Children are the most vulnerable and it’s clear that even a small step toward testing and repairs would go a long way to protect children.
Trump and EPA still have an opportunity to really make a difference by supporting the legislation that has been sitting on the senate floor for months with no movement. Republicans can champion this bill and show the country that EPA meant what they said and are moving to remove lead within the most vulnerable, this country’s children and future leaders.
There is a solution, the “Get the Lead Out of School Act (SB 1401) requires every school in the country to test drinking water for lead. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL) would require school administrators to share the results of the water testing with parents and the community. Unfortunately, the bill has been languishing on the Senate floor for months.
If the lead level is greater than the EPA’s 15 parts per billion standard, then the Get the Lead out of Schools Act also provides funding to solve the problem.
We take clean water for granted, at least until we don’t have it anymore. We also expect that our children will be safe when we send them to school each day. I know I did. As a young parent 40 years ago, I sent my own children to school, never connecting it with their frequent rashes and assorted health issues, or the high rate of birth defects and other health problems in my neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, called Love Canal.
My own grandchildren go to school in Texas where a study last year by Environment Texas, showed that 65 percent of the schools there that tested their water for lead found levels that exceeded recommendations b the American Academy of Pediatrics. Still, the state government has refused to pass legislation requiring schools to test drinking water.
It’s not that unusual. Most states don’t require schools to check for lead-tainted drinking water, which makes the national legislation that much more critical if we are serious about protecting our kids.
Fortunately CHEJ was able to help community after community with questions and concerns about their water. Moms, dads and individuals panicked ask for help – what can we do to protect our children – ourselves?
CHEJ scientists were there to answer questions about toxicity, safe levels and health impacts from exposure. We were there to help because you were there — providing the resources through contributions large and small. Thank you for making sure we were able to respond to the many people who needed advice from a trusted person.
Here’s a few of their introductory sentences.
“There is dioxin in our drinking water.” Houston, Texas
“There’s a licorice smell when I turn on the tap water.” Charleston, West Virginia
“We have lead in the nurse’s station faucet at our elementary school.” Ithaca, New York
“EPA said don’t drink the water it has a toxic chemical in it.” Flint, Michigan
“We need protection from coal ash in our drinking water.” Uniontown, Alabama
“The water in our childcare center has flame retardant chemicals.” Portsmouth, NH
“State says don’t drink, bath or use the water at all – it contains a solvent that’s dangerous.” Corpus Christi, Texas
“The water stinks but we’re told it is fine to drink. Where can I test my water?” Portland, Oregon
Unfortunately, the issue around safe drinking water are not going away any day soon. In fact some believe the trend toward unsafe water is more likely to continue. Why? Not because there is more pollution that will contaminated the water, although there might likely be more. It’s because people are now demanding that schools, day care facilities and water suppliers provide a yearly test that includes lead, copper and other contaminates. Parents and teachers are asking that all child related facilities test yearly and share the results of the water samples with parents, staff and school boards immediately.
This testing is not routine and when it is done the results are rarely shared with the public. Therefore, places where children have been exposed for years, will surface and concerned people will be looking for trusted advice.
Thanks to your continued support CHEJ will be there to pick up the phone and provide the assistance needed. Please join us again this year so we can be there for people in crisis and provide honest answers to their questions.