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Dangerous lead levels detected in drinking fountains at two dozen Chicago public schools

Tap water

(NaturalNews) It's been several months since major lead contamination of drinking water was first reported in Flint, Michigan, and it appears that another Midwestern city is now suffering similar woes. According to reports, the drinking water at nearly two dozen public schools in the Chicago School District (CPS) has tested positive for lead, much of it at elementary schools frequented by young children.

Routine testing initially identified 19 schools where lead was present in the taps of either drinking fountains or sinks, prompting further investigation into other schools within the district. The count has since risen to 23 schools, or about 25 percent of those within the district, where lead is being detected at levels above 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) action level.

So far, 26 drinking fountains and 22 sinks within the district have been identified as having high levels of lead, according to CPS. Four of these sinks, the district says, are located in kitchens where food is prepared for children, which is raising concerns among parents and administrators who recognize the serious toxicity of lead in developing children.

"In 2016, it is outrageous that we must face the risk of putting our children in harm's way by sending them to school," Alderman Christopher Taliaferro, who's sponsoring a resolution to swiftly address the problem for the safety of students, stated at a recent City Hall meeting.

"Lead shouldn't even be in our vocabulary in this day and age. We know how to get rid of lead. We know how to test for it. We know how to keep our kids safe from it. So that it is present in our schools must be unacceptable to us."

CPS is planning to hold a series of community meetings later in the month to discuss ways in which to address the problem. The district claims that the contamination is isolated, and that it most likely originated at or near the affected taps rather than in the water pipes that feed the schools at large. The affected taps have also been turned off until an action plan is in place.

"... We are working to determine the causes in all our schools and develop remediation plans for the 4 percent of drinking fountains and sinks that have lead above the federal action level," Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for CPS, said in a statement.

Lead levels below federal standards can still damage a child's brain

Perhaps unsurprisingly, CPS is attempting to minimize the threat by claiming that only a very small percentage of tested taps showed lead levels at alarming rates. However, a 2007 study out of Cornell University found that even at levels below federal standards, lead can still damage a child's brain.

The six-year-long study found that even trace levels of lead, well below the official safety threshold, can still impede brain development and damage a child's IQ.

"We found that the average IQ scores of children with BLLs [blood-lead levels] of only 5 to 10 mcg/dl [micrograms per deciliter] were about 5 points lower than the IQ scores of children with BLLs less than 5 mcg/dl," stated Richard Canfield, a senior researcher at Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences, and senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"This indicates an adverse effect on children who have a BLL substantially below the CDC standard, suggesting the need for more stringent regulations."

CPS is continuing to test water at the remaining schools within the district, prioritizing those built before 1986 that have cooking kitchens. It hopes to have all the schools tested within the next few weeks.

If you are concerned about lead or other heavy metals in your tap water, please feel free to send a sample to EPAWatch.org. To view the results of the first 100 samples tested, visit NaturalScienceJournal.org.

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