More than 100 Pennsylvania Schools Have Lead in Their Drinking Water

The highest level of lead found in school drinking water in the state was 3,750 parts per billion.

More than 100 Pennsylvania Schools Have Lead in Their Drinking Water

A study of school drinking water in the 2018-2019 school year found that more than 100 buildings in 32 Pennsylvania school systems had unsafe levels of lead in it.

The problem is state-wide, is in both urban and rural areas, and the levels vary from 0.03 to 3,750 parts per billion. The highest reading was at Douglas Elementary School, which is part of Mastery Charter Schools, reports the Pennsylvania Captial-Star

The schools’ responses varied depending on the levels of lead in their drinking water that were found. For example, many schools shut off their drinking fountains, brought in bottled drinking water and/or replaced their fixtures and filters after their water was tested. Others posted “non-potable water” or “do not drink” signs over their drinking fountains.

According to the Pennsylvania Education Department, exposure to lead is a significant health concern, especially for young children and infants whose growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than the average adult.

There is no safe blood lead level in children. Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.

The EPA recommends the following sites as priority sample sites: drinking fountains, kitchen sinks, classroom sinks, teachers’ lounge sinks, nurse’s office sinks and any other sink known to be used for consumption.

To reduce exposure to lead in drinking water schools should include:

  • Develop an aerator (screen) cleaning maintenance schedule and clean debris from all accessible aerators frequently.
  • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
  • Run the water to flush out lead. If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run water for 30 seconds to two minutes or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes out any stagnant water in the plumbing and replaces it with fresh water.

Interim control measures:

  • Flush the piping system in the building by opening taps every morning before the facility opens and letting the water run to remove stagnant water.
  • Provide bottled water.
  • Shut off or disconnect problem outlets.

Permanent remedies:

  • Use interim measures on a permanent basis.
  • Remove leaded plumbing materials and replace them with certified lead-free materials.
  • Consider options for treatment such as point of use filters. Ensure filters are certified to reduce lead and are properly maintained.

In addition to water, sources of lead exposure include lead-based paint, lead in the air or soil, and lead in consumer products and food.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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One response to “More than 100 Pennsylvania Schools Have Lead in Their Drinking Water”

  1. Chicago has the answer! we can autoflush every drinking fountain in the school district and ensure lead free drinking water for students at all times! Please contact me and we can fix it. Every day that goes by children are exposed we can do better and fix this problem now.

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