It’s time to get the lead out of Philadelphia schools
Over the past year, the nation watched a tragedy unfold in Flint, Mich., where an entire community’s drinking water was contaminated with lead. But the problem extends well beyond Flint. Nearly 2,000 communities across the country have confirmed lead in tap water.
And it’s not just residential taps: Data recently made public by the Philadelphia School District showed that nearly 15 percent of water samples taken from school drinking water outlets had lead higher than the legal level for home tap water.
Worse, the School District is moving at a snail’s pace to uncover the threat, stating it will take 18 months to complete testing. New York City – with nearly five times as many schools as Philadelphia – did all its testing in a few months.
The negative health effects of lead are well known and well documented. We know lead is highly toxic, and it’s especially damaging to kids – impairing how they learn, grow, and behave. Lead can also cause high blood pressure, and damage the nervous system and kidneys. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, our kids will lose an estimated 23 million IQ points from lead exposure.
Now tests have confirmed that Philadelphia’s public schools have lead in the water flowing from their faucets or fountains. In all likelihood, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Many schools in Pennsylvania have some lead in the pipes, plumbing, or fixtures that deliver the water our children drink. And where there is lead, there is risk.
There is no safe level of lead for children. Yet while the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control agree on this, our water utility companies are only required to take action when tests show lead in drinking water at 15 parts per billion is found in 10 percent of their test results. Incredibly, neither Philadelphia nor Pennsylvania has an independent requirement that schools ensure the water our children drink is lead-free.
From: It’s time to get the lead out of Philadelphia schools
By: David Masur, Robin Roberts, and Jerry Roseman
Photo: Galeet Cohen