Several schools across the United States have discovered evidence of higher-than-acceptable lead in their drinking water.
The news follows public outrage over the crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has attracted national attention over the past few months due to extreme levels of lead affecting local water supplies.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), levels of lead are measured in parts per billion (ppb) and over 15 parts per billion in drinking water can be harmful to humans. Some scientists claim that even smaller amounts of lead can adversely affect children, including the development of the brain.
Tests carried out in Flint have shown levels of lead in households ranging from 27 ppb to an astonishing — and highly toxic — 397 ppb.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that lead can attack the brain and central nervous system, leading to coma and even death. U.S. cities other than Flint are increasingly exercising caution and implementing preventative measure.
The school district of Ithaca in New York closed all drinking water sources last week after it emerged that tests were last carried out for lead contamination in 2005.
Last Thursday, protocols were also adopted in Binghamton, New York, in order to promote efforts to reduce lead exposure in its schools after finding high levels of the toxic metal in tests from more than 50 water sources from 2013.
On Monday schools in Champion, Ohio, disconnected sinks after test results showed elevated levels of lead in drinking water supplies. The Bainbridge Island School District is now using bottled water in one of its elementary schools.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has called on both the EPA and Congress to help control the situation.
“We need the EPA inspectors and lead experts here, on the ground, as soon as possible to work with the school district to develop a plan and prevent any future contamination,” he said.
And while the measures currently being implemented in the U.S. to tackle lead toxicity in water is a sign of progress, less attention is being paid to the excessive quantities of lead in urban soil, which is present in many parks nationwide and exposes children to additional risk.