States Fail to Protect Students Against Lead in Drinking Water

March 26, 2019 AT 7:30 AM

By Casey Leins

Nearly two dozen states are failing to protect children from lead in drinking water at school, according to a recent study.

The presence of lead in water is a major health threat for children. According to the study, low levels of lead can cause a decreased IQ level and a decrease in growth, while high levels can result in anemia, kidney disease and even death. The report, by advocacy groups Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, gave 22 states an 'F' grade for how well they protect young students from lead.

The report looked at 31 states and Washington, D.C., meaning that more than two-thirds of the states earned a failing grade. The nation's capital received the highest grade: a B+.

The states' scores were based on the following criteria: if schools are required to proactively remove lead from water delivery systems, what level of lead triggers mandatory remedial action, if testing is required (and how often), how much information is being shared with the public, and if state laws apply to both schools and early childhood programs.

The authors note that only 10 percent of preschools and schools are considered to be their own Public Water Systems and, therefore, have to follow federal drinking water rules. The other 90 percent of schools do not have to follow national standards and, as illustrated in the report, many states do little policy-wise to prevent lead contamination in their schools' water.

Some state laws require lead testing but no remediation if lead is detected, while other states that do require action only require a response if lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion (which is also the federal standard). Yet, the authors note that any level of lead contamination isn't safe for children.

Among the states that flunked the report card are Alabama, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas.

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