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Department of Public Health: No safe standard for lead in water

The Herald News - 8/12/2017

On Thursday, the Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 announced the results of tests for lead in the water of 33 school facilities.

The testing came about because of a state law requiring water sampling by the end of the year in schools built before 1987 and serving preschool through fifth grade students. According to D-202 spokesperson Tom Hernandez, the district wanted to get started on testing all school facilities at once in May.

Results found 65 non-compliant sources including six drinking fountains at four schools and 59 classroom sinks throughout 15 schools, which is 2 percent of the 3,675 overall sources. While they prefer not to comment on specific laboratory results, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, it's difficult to put the result in context. That is because other schools are still testing their water sources.

The IDPH also wanted to clarify what the standards are for alerting parents and guardians to results yielding lead and to mitigation strategies.

"There is no safe standard for lead in water, other than non-detection," said Melaney Arnold, an IDPH spokesperson, in an email.

When samples have less than five parts per billion, the school is allowed to provide general notice of the results to parents and guardians. If a result is above five parts per billion, the school is required to provide direct communication of the location of the source and advice to parents and guardians on avoiding risks associated with lead in water. All positive sources in a school are required to be mitigated, not just the samples above five parts per billion.

D-202 said it was installing lead removal filters on the 65 non-compliant water sources. They will then be retested before the first day of school on August 17 and any water source still out of compliance will not be in use until it passes a retest.

The Environmental Protection Agency provides basic information about lead in school water sources on its website. There it states it agrees with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.

It also explains that lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water contains high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. Corrosion occurs when there is dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing.

The number of factors involved can include the chemistry of the water, types and amounts of minerals in the water, the amount of lead it comes in contact with, the temperature of the water, the amount of wear to the pipes, how long the water stays in pipes and the presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.

Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead, much more so than adults even with the same dose. Even low levels of lead in a child's blood can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia.

The EPA states that if you want to test your child for lead, a family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide information about the health effects of lead.

State, city or county departments of health can also provide information about how you can test your child.


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