Schools in the US are not doing enough to protect students from lead-contaminated drinking water, according to a new report from the Environment America Center for Research and Policy and the US PIRG Education Fund. report found “a pattern of widespread contamination of drinking water” in schools across the country.

Only nine states and Washington, DC have mandatory testing laws, and there are currently no federal rules that require schools to test for lead in drinking water if they obtain their water from a public water system, reports Anna Werner of CBS News. A government study last year found that only 43% of school districts said they had their drinking water tested for lead. About a third of those districts said they found high levels of lead, and many parents probably have no idea their children can drink it.

Julie Ma prepares bottles of water for her five- and six-year-old daughters to take to Boston elementary school because the water sources have been shut down due to lead contamination. It was three years ago. Since then, the neighborhood has brought bottled water for students to drink.

“We got a letter from the superintendent saying that her school was one of the schools that tested more than 15 parts per billion and that they were shutting down all water sources as a precaution, even though there was only one. “Just one source to test,” Ma said. “It’s worrying. I’d rather take the lead in providing water to students as soon as possible … Many schools don’t even know if they have it and haven’t been able to make these changes.”

She is correct. The report, which reviewed drinking water standards for schools in 31 states and the District of Columbia, found that most state regulations are “too weak” to protect children from lead contamination in water. water from her school.

“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.

The problem? The group says it’s the light fixtures – fountains, taps and other parts that contain lead. The report cites a school source in Ohio with more than 100 times the EPA primary action level for tap water, a school in Illinois with 212 times that level, and a source in a school in Massachusetts with almost 1,500 times the level. of main action. . All have been replaced, but the group urges all schools to simply remove the plumbing when replacing light fixtures, or at least install and maintain filters “on whatever faucet or source is used for cooking and maintenance.” To drink”.

“Not all solutions are going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the filters cost, you know, $ 100, $ 200 or even less, so it’s a cheap solution,” Rumpler said. But you’re right. Ultimately, not all communities will be able to fix this on their own, so we are excited to see states step up and show leadership to help communities invest. to mitigate this problem. “

But Rumpler said the federal government should act too, with more funding and a stringent lead standard, as child health experts agree that no amount of lead is safe for children.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told CBS News on Wednesday that he plans to update drinking water regulations.

“This is a regulation that has not been updated for more than 20 years and it is a proposal that we will launch this summer that I believe will help many regions to ensure that the public drinks clean water,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler says that as part of this, the EPA will study the possibility of requiring testing for drinking water in schools. If you are a parent and would like information about your child’s school, you should contact your school district. And again, pediatric experts say there is no safe level of lead exposure for children; affects their growth and learning.

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