Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

Health + Wellness
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.


According to the GAO's nationwide survey, roughly 43 percent of school districts, serving 35 million students, tested for lead in 2016. Of the districts that tested, 37 percent found lead at levels above the threshold the districts set for taking remedial action. All the districts that found elevated levels reported taking steps to lower lead, such as installing filters, replacing old water fountains, and providing students and employees with bottled water.

The GAO said that 41 percent of schools, serving about 12 million students, did not test for lead in 2016. Sixteen percent of schools said they did not know if they had tested. No federal law requires lead testing in schools, and the GAO said only eight states require testing.

"This report should shock every member of Congress and jolt acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler into action," said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. "In the richest country on Earth, none of our children should be attending schools where the drinking water is contaminated with a heavy metal that causes brain damage."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set its so-called action level of 15 parts per billion, or ppb, for lead in tap water from public water systems decades ago. It is not based on a safe exposure level for children, but was instead set to monitor a water system's efforts to manage water corrosivity and minimize lead leaching from old pipes. Shockingly, for school water systems, the EPA's action level for lead is 20 ppb, or one-third higher than the action level for public water systems.

In 2009, California set a public health goal for lead in drinking water at 0.2 ppb to protect against harms to the brains and nervous systems of children. This health guideline, which is not enforceable, was based on studies of children showing that an increase of one microgram of lead per deciliter of blood was correlated with a decrease of one IQ point.

EWG urges the federal government to set a protective legal limit for lead in drinking water, as it does for other water contaminants under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA should require more aggressive action to monitor both schools and homes for lead contamination, and compel water companies to speed up their plans to replace water service lines.

"Instead of working to deplete the EPA's resources and authority to protect public health at the behest of polluters, President Trump and Acting Administrator Wheeler should demand that the agency gets whatever it needs from Congress to reduce the threat of lead in our drinking water," said Cook.

Last year, EWG released a searchable national drinking water database that provides information about contamination in the tap water of virtually every American. The GAO's report also provides guidance on what people can do to protect themselves and their families from the risks from lead in drinking water.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Activists of Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demonstrate on a canal in front of the cooling tower of the coal-fired power plant Datteln 4 of power supplier Uniper in Datteln, western Germany, on May 20. INA FASSBENDER / AFP / Getty Images

The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Tara Lohan

Would you like to take a crack at solving climate change? Or at least creating a road map of how we could do it?

Read More Show Less
Climate campaigners and Indigenous peoples across Canada have spent the past several years protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. Mark Klotz / Flickr / cc

By Elana Sulakshana

Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Leah Campbell

After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.

Read More Show Less
Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less