LENOX, Mass. – Massachusetts needs to get the lead out of drinking water in schools and daycare centers. That’s the message public-health advocates took to a legislative committee hearing on Monday.
The Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture was taking testimony on a bill to require the regular testing of water in schools for lead contamination and corrective action when a problem is found. The American Academy of Pediatrics says concentrations of more than one part per billion pose a significant threat to children.
According to Deidre Cummings, legislative director of MASSPIRG, the potent neurotoxin was present in almost half of school tap water tested last summer.
“Forty-nine percent of the 67,000 taps tested at our schools found some level of lead in the water,” she said. “The vast majority of those lead levels were in concentrations greater than one part per billion.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 456, has 76 legislative co-sponsors and broad bipartisan support.
Lead accumulates in the body over time, but children are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of lead at much lower levels of exposure. As Cummings points out, the consequences can be severe.
“Exposure to lead has been shown to cause a variety of health problems including intellectual problems, behavioral disabilities, stunted growth, hearing loss and anemia,” she explains.
The bill would require the replacement of lead service lines, the largest single source of lead in drinking water, to schools and daycare centers, and installation of filters on taps and fountains.
The dangers of lead have been known for years and it is no longer used in paint or as a gasoline additive. But at Monday’s hearing, Cummings told legislators that much less attention has been paid to the lead pipes that bring it right to our faucets.
“Let’s take the leadership,” she challenges. “Let’s be the state that says no, we’re not going to tolerate an unsafe environment for where our kids go to school or day-care centers.”