Water and Conservation Advocate, PennEnvironment
Water and Conservation Advocate, PennEnvironment
[Harrisburg] –An analysis by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center gave Pennsylvania a grade of “F” when it comes to preventing lead in drinking water in the Commonwealth’s schools.
“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Pennsylvania is failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Stephanie Wein. “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”
As more Pennsylvania schools from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia take steps to test their water, they are finding lead in the test results.
Yet a new report by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. For example, when 40 schools were recently tested in Philadelphia, 14 percent exceeded 15ppb, which is especially troubling when you consider no level of lead is safe.
“The tragedy in Flint, Michigan has brought this issue to the forefront nationally. Parents should not have to fear that the water running through their home could be poisoning their children. They should not have to worry about whether the water fountain in school is a safety hazard. Pennsylvania must take steps to get the lead out of our children’s environment,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (Philadelphia/Montgomery), “My colleagues and I are committed to doing our part as both legislators and advocates to take PennEnvironment’s recommendations seriously and put the right laws into place that will protect our children and ensure that they have access to safe, clean water.”
“As a father, I know the risk that lead poses to our children,” noted State Representative Pat Harkins (Erie) “And as a legislator, I look forward to working with our officials in Erie, the school district, and Harrisburg to implement the policies called for in this report”
All too often, schools and homes have pipes, plumbing and/or fixtures that leach lead into drinking water. In some cases, old service lines – the pipes that brings water from the mains in the street into buildings – are made entirely of lead.
Unfortunately, current state law does nothing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. In Pennsylvania, we have no required testing regimen for school drinking water, no limits on the allowable lead levels and no plan to remove lead infrastructure from our schools. In PennEnvironment’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Pennsylvania a grade of F.
In December, Philadelphia passed a new ordinance for the city’s schools that set stricter limits for lead in drinking water, improve the public’s right-to-know, and requires testing of all school faucets and fountains.
“The poisoning of Flint shook me to my core. And it shook our nation. It reminded us of a problem we don’t have the luxury to forget: that our aging infrastructure and years of disinvestment in cities can lead to grave dangers for our children and youth,” said Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym, “I’m proud of what the Women of Council did last year. We came together to address one of the most pressing challenges our city faces: the continued risks of lead in our homes, schools, and communities.”
Jerry Roseman, Director of Environmental Health for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, added, “All school children can be protected from the devastating effects of ongoing lead exposure by conducting timely and proper testing, ensuring broad-based and public information sharing, enforcing protective drinking water standards, and by implementing prompt remedial actions to remove and replace lead-containing faucets, drinking water fixtures and components.”
“Lead is highly toxic and damaging to our children and there is no safe level of lead in our drinking water. As a nurse I urge the Commonwealth to implement the recommendations of this report and to be proactive in preventing more lead contamination to ensure we can protect the health of Pennsylvania children,” said Dr. Kelly Kuhn Chair and Associate Professor of Nursing at Millersville University.
“We were disappointed to find that Pennsylvania’s efforts are at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school. Our kids deserve better,” said Wein.
The report also quotes Senator Bob Casey on the subject, saying “When it comes to schools, there often is an ideological divide… but potable water should know no ideological or political constraint.”
The full report is available to view and download here.
The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center (www.PennEnvironment.org/Center) is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.
PSEA is an affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 180,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.