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Should Schools Be Doing More to Regulate Elevated Lead Levels in Drinking Water?

Should Schools Be Doing More to Regulate Elevated Lead Levels in Drinking Water?

In March of this year, Newark Public Schools made the decision to cut off water to more than 30 schools after detecting elevated levels of lead in the school’s drinking water.

Due to the recent issue in Flint, Michigan where elevated levels of lead in the city’s drinking water lead to a crisis, the topic is a touchy issue and caused great alarm among Newark parents.

District officials urged parents to remain calm and guaranteed the safety of children as the water was “still drinkable” but the words of reassurance provided little relief. Newark’s plight highlights the long-standing issues of lead levels in school drinking water.

In Newton, MA, a group of parents this week are urging for the officials of Burr Elementary School to do more when it comes to effectively testing water levels for lead.

"In a letter sent last week to Superintendent David Fleishman and Mayor Setti Warren, and signed by 25 parents, the group calling itself Parents of Burr writes that the current testing procedures 'have failed our children,’” said The Boston Globe.

The parents demand that officials do more to meet guidelines set by the Department of Environmental Affairs, which it says they have failed to do after problems found in both 2005 and 2010 were not corrected, the Globe said.

Parents want more regular testing to ensure the safety of their school children.

Yesterday, a separate article from the Globe found that Burr Elementary School isn’t the only school having problems with elevated lead levels.

"Water testing conducted in the past two years in 293 schools and early education centers in Massachusetts found 20 schools with lead levels above regulatory limits, according to data provided state regulators,” the Globe said.

Looking back to Michigan where the Flint water crisis originated, recent data from the state's Department of Health and Human Services found that 3.4 percent of all of the state's children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2015. 

Expert Yanna Lambrinidou told the Globe that the problem is likely widespread in schools throughout the country and that as a society we are “systematically neglecting” the problem.

DEP officials themselves aren’t sure that the lead levels pose a significant problem but support further testing to “understand the scope of the issue.”

Water testing isn’t required of most U.S. schools- in fact, 9 out of 10 schools do not need to test water for lead levels, which some experts say could be a potential disservice to students’ health.

While the issue might not seem as relevant now as schools gear up for summer vacation, experts say lead levels in water are more likely to be a problem after water sits in pipes for long periods of time during weekends and vacations.

Read more from The Boston Globe and weigh-in by taking our poll below.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

6/7/2016

Should schools across the country be doing more to regulate lead levels in drinking water?

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