Older Calif. Schools Must Test Drinking Water for Lead
Even low levels of lead in drinking water can cause behavioral health issues and learning disabilities.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Thursday that public schools in the state built before 2010 must test for lead in their drinking water.
The announcement follows last year’s signing of Assembly Bill 746 by Gov. Jerry Brown, which requires community water systems statewide to complete lead testing in these older schools by July 1, 2019.
“Students need fresh water, nutritious meals, and regular physical activity to be ready to learn and succeed in class,” Torlakson said in a press release. “Cooperation with local water systems is critical to ensure proper testing.”
Even at low levels, lead in drinking water may cause a range of health effects including behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Children six years old and younger are most at risk because the brain is still developing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 percent to 20 percent of total lead exposure for young children comes from drinking water.
The most prevalent sources of lead in drinking water are from pipes, fixtures and associated hardware. California generally has newer water infrastructure than other parts of the nation and lead problems are rare, but recent events in schools led to the new requirement.
In February 2017, the safety of drinking water was questioned after elevated levels of lead were discovered at three campuses in the San Ysidro School District in San Diego County.
In addition, Folsom Cordova Unified in Sacramento County started testing water last year at schools built before 1960 that have galvanized steel pipes. The testing was prompted by elevated levels of lead in water coming from a classroom tap in 2015.
That same year, the Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Tech found elevated levels of lead in Flint, Michigan’s water. The Flint water scandal received nationwide attention from the media and the public.
According to the Mercury News, costs for the testing will be reimbursed by the state.
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