It is an early Monday morning and you drop your kids off at school in a rush. As you pull away from the drop off, you notice your kid’s water bottles were left on the middle seat. They are too far away to call out their names and besides, it is 7:32 AM and mom has to be at work on time. Looks like the little ones will be using the drinking fountains at school for the day. You think to yourself, “No big deal, right? My child has access to drinking water at school.”
However, do you really know how safe the water is at school?
Think about this. Children drink more water per pound than adults and are susceptible to the hazardous health concerns that come with water that is contaminated with lead, pesticides and other toxins. (NBC, P.1, 2009). Schools that use Public Water Systems are not required to test their water because Municipal water systems are already tested and have added agents to purify the water to make it potable. Lead that is found in this drinking water is due to leaching from old pipes or incorrectly installed treatment systems. Lead levels can also jump from stagnant water in pipes sitting in the pipes all weekend or the holidays.
“Schools that get water from local utilities are not required to test for toxins because the EPA already regulates water providers. That means there is no way to ensure detection of contaminants caused by schools’ own plumbing.” (NBC, P.1, 2009).
Water testing that is done within most school jurisdictions is done voluntarily by the public or officials themselves. Budget cuts play a role in this as it takes money to continually test the school water all over the nation for toxins like lead. Another train of thought is something along the track of “if we don’t test our water to be sure, it is easier to not think about and deal with”.
About 10% of schools in the U.S.A use a private well for their water source so since those are not FDA regulated, they are required to test their water for lead. (AMI, P.1, 2016).
What can you do to ensure safe water in our public schools?
If you suspect a high amount of lead in your child’s drinking water at school, it is also being used to cook with and wash hands in sinks. Additionally, child care services that unknowingly use lead contaminated water are likely using this water to prepare milk for formula fed babies.
Taking the water to be tested can give you a sense of relief to know for sure if your water is safe. For others, starting an awareness group to bring more attention to a serious issue can be meaningful.
Thankfully, action was taken by the California Department of Education “To further safeguard water quality in California’s K-12 public schools, California Assembly Bill 746 published on October 12, 2017, effective January 1, 2018, requires community water system to test lead levels, by July 1, 2019, in drinking water at all California public, K-12 school sites that were constructed before January 1, 2010.” (ca.gov, p.1). ANOTHER WIN FOR THE PUBLIC!
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Sources and further readings:
Drinking Water Unsafe At Thousands Of Schools, 2009
Lead in School Water, 2016
California State Water Resources Control Board – https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/leadsamplinginschools.html