Last year, a study performed by the government found that only 43% of school districts nationally had tested their drinking water for lead and of those schools, 1/3 of the districts reported high levels of lead. Additionally, the Environment America Center for Research and Policy and the US PIRG Education Fund reported widespread contamination of drinking water in schools across the United States.  

These reports reveal a growing issue that schools don’t regularly test their water and there are no federal rules that currently require schools to test for lead in drinking water. Only nine states and Washington, DC have mandatory testing laws. 

The EACRP report reviewed drinking water standards for schools in 31 states and the District of Columbia finding that most state regulations are ineffective to protect children from lead. “Of the 32 states, including the District of Columbia, that we studied, 22 do not protect their children from lead in drinking water,” said John Rumpler, co-author of the report. Of the participating states, a school district in Ohio reported they found lead levels exceeded the EPA standards by more than 100 times. A school in Illinois exceeded that level by 212 times and a school in Massachusetts reported over 1,500 times the level set by the EPA.  

Solutions for these issues can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. When schools have to finance the cleaning themselves, it is recommended to use a filter system that can cost just a couple hundred dollars at a dedicated sink or water fountain in the building. Some states have started to offer financial support to schools and communities struggling to resolve these problems.  

Considering that the EPA regulation hasn’t changed in over 20 years, there is growing momentum in the government to require lead testing for drinking water in schools. Experts agree, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. 

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