Safe Drinking Water: Train, Test, Tell

The EPA estimates that approximately 8,000 schools and child care facilities are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), but there are approximately 98,000 public schools and 500,000 childcare facilities not regulated under the SDWA. These unregulated facilities may or may not be conducting voluntary drinking water quality testing.

The Problem: Most lead gets into water after it leaves the local well or treatment plant and comes into contact with plumbing materials containing lead. Drinking water can be unsafe if there are high levels of lead and copper. Children are especially susceptible because their bodies absorb these metals at higher rates than the average adult. Children younger than six are most at risk due to their rapid rate of growth. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause low IQ, hearing impairment, reduced attention span, and poor classroom performance. In adults, exposure to high levels of copper can cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver or kidney damage, and complications of Wilson’s disease in genetically predisposed people.

What You Can Do: Even with proper maintenance that meets EPA standards, lead may still get into water. Testing is the best way to know if there are elevated lead levels in a school’s drinking water. EPA has developed the 3Ts Toolkit for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools to assist schools with programs to ensure safe drinking water: Training school officials; Testing drinking water in schools; Telling students, parents, staff, and the larger community about monitoring programs, potential risks, the results of testing, and remediation actions. A link to this toolkit is provided below, along with information on protecting source water, and resources for students and educators. (Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

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