A very encouraging bill is poised to be signed into law in Illinois requiring all school and daycare centers to test their drinking water. In the wake of the Flint, MI crisis and known problems in some Chicago Public Schools where testing last year found high levels of lead in the water at dozens of buildings, and a dozen Cook County districts have reported results that ranged from trace amounts of lead to staggeringly high levels at some water fountains, this law is clearly needed.
The Chicago Tribune article Illinois Posed to Require Lead Testing in Schools, Daycare Centers explains that “If the bill becomes law, water will be tested for the toxic metal by year’s end in every Illinois grade school built before lead plumbing was banned nationwide in 1986. Newer buildings would have to be tested by the end of 2018. The Illinois Department of Public Health would develop separate rules for day care centers.”
Once again the devil is in the details, its not enough just to test drinking water but to determine what to do with the test results. This bill will require that parents be notified if the amount of lead from any water fixture exceeds 5 parts per billion (ppb). However, the maximum contaminant level goal, the value the EPA deems acceptable for health, is 0. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that state and local governments should take steps to ensure that water fountains in schools do not exceed water lead concentrations of 1 ppb.
This bill is an important first step to addressing the problem of lead in school drinking water but parents and communities must advocate for their children and be vigilant on taking action on any test results that reveal more than 1 ppb of lead in drinking water. For more information on the dangers of childhood lead exposure see FACT’s website article Health Affects of Lead Exposure on Children.