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Giving Compass' Take:
• Hilary Brueck explains how students in at least nine areas across the United States are being exposed to lead in their water at school and shares what funders can do about this problem.
• Is school drinking water safe in your area? How can funders work to identify other areas with unsafe drinking water?
• Learn how cities can minimize the effects of lead on children.
In 2018, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that of all the US public schools that had tested their water in the previous two years and reported the results, more than a third (37%) found elevated levels of lead. But perhaps even more worrisome: less than half (43%) of schools had tested for lead at all over the last couple of years. At least 10 US states and the District of Columbia mandate lead testing in schools, but in the rest, it's done on a voluntary basis or not at all.
Jacqueline Nowicki, who works on education policy at the US GAO, estimates there are still close to 15 million US students who don't know whether their water is safe to drink at school.
This is troubling because lead is especially harmful to kids' young, developing brains.
Here are nine surprising places around the US where the tap water in schools has tested positive for lead:
- As recently as 2018, some Los Angeles schools were reportedly still dealing with dangerous amounts of lead in their water.
- Maine has some of the most rampant lead problems in the country when it comes to schools and day-care centers.
- More than 50 Detroit public schools have found out that their drinking water is contaminated with high levels of lead, copper, or both.
- More than half of the Atlanta public schools that did tests in 2016 showed elevated levels of lead in the water.
- Portland schools only recently re-opened their taps, following 2016 test results that showed most of the water kids were drinking at school was tainted with lead.
- At least four schools in Polk County, Florida were found to have high lead levels.
- Three drinking fountains on Chicago's South Side tested positive for high levels of lead in 2016.
- In 2016, high levels of lead were also found in 30 different Newark public schools.
- At least two dozen schools in the Baltimore, Maryland region were found to have elevated lead levels in their water.
The reason tap water can be contaminated with lead is simple: There's no US regulation that requires schools to test for lead.
If you're worried about the drinking water at a particular school, check to see if your city issues a report. Schools in New York and DC, for example, have information about their lead testing available online.
There's also an interactive map from the National Drinking Water Alliance that tracks media reports of contaminated water.
Twenty-four states also mandate, or are considering mandating, some school water testing. Some schools are already making changes, installing new water fountains and bottle-filling stations for students that include lead-reducing filters.
Read the full article about unsafe drinking water at schools by Hilary Brueck at Business Insider.