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High levels of lead found in Florida schools' drinking water

Lead contamination

(NaturalNews) Children spend the majority of their time in school, so it's only natural that attentive parents make a point of ensuring that these are safe and productive places. Many parents focus on aspects such as the school's security, its teachers and its academic statistics, but few parents give the quality of the school's water a second thought. All that could be about to change, after significant levels of lead were found in the water in several Florida schools.

Florida A&M University professor of environmental health Don Axelrad collected the samples, which were then turned over to Florida State University geology professor Vincent Salters for testing. The water was taken from sinks and water fountains in the schools. The researchers discovered levels of lead ranging from 1 to 25 parts per billion (ppb) in 16 of Leon County's elementary schools and eight schools in Wakulla County.

A report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in June warned that lead concentrations of just 1 part per billion in school drinking fountains were problematic, and these levels are as much as 25 times that amount!

The AAP wrote: "State and local governments should take steps to ensure that water fountains in schools do not exceed water lead concentrations of 1 ppb."

Allergist Dr. Ron Saff, who was in charge of the effort, said: "I was amazed to see that Leon County school children were being exposed to dangerously high levels of lead, which could negatively impact IQ. Anything above zero is harmful. Just like crack cocaine and heroin, there's no safe amount."

How does lead make its way into the body?

Lead enters the human body through food, air and water, and it builds up over time. It's particularly dangerous to pregnant women and young children, even at low levels of exposure. Children aged 6 months to 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can stunt physical growth and mental development, and lead to behavioral problems, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, liver and kidney damage, blindness, hearing problems, anemia and death.

In many cases, lead gets into the drinking water through the lead pipes found in older water systems or solder made of lead used in the water pipes. The lead then leaches from the pipes into the water.

The problem in these Florida schools has already been corrected. The schools are also considering a water filtration system for water fountains to remove impurities just before the water is consumed, instead of filtering it before it heads through the pipe system, where it can become contaminated.

Lead being detected in water throughout the nation

This problem is hardly restricted just to Florida. In New York, a state-mandated testing effort discovered lead in the drinking water in 11 school districts. Parents were notified by the school that some of the water fixtures on school premises had been closed down to be repaired or replaced, and experts expect similar scenarios in hundreds of school districts as the state's new program begins in earnest. The law requires all of the state's public school districts to test the water from all drinking fountains and the majority of the sinks in each school building for lead.

Meanwhile, hundreds of public water fountains were shut down in Chicago recently, after tests found excessive amounts of lead in the water in one quarter of the city's outdoor water fountains. These cases highlight the importance of testing drinking water for lead.

The Natural Science Journal recently published the findings of a widespread water testing effort throughout the U.S., and unsettling levels of lead and other heavy metals were detected in some areas by the scientists at CWC Labs. Concerned citizens can send a sample of questionable drinking water to EPA Watch for free testing. Drinking clean water is absolutely vital for human health, especially when it comes to our children.

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