Lead Poisoning Across The Nation? New Jersey Now on Alert, 30 Schools Banning Water
The nation has been rightly outraged by the recent large-scale lead
poisoning of the children (and adults) of Flint, Michigan. Amid calls
for the identification and punishment of the government officials
responsible, however, a dangerous impression may have been created that
the case of Flint is somehow unique.
In reality, the contamination of water supplies, including with lead, is alarmingly widespread in the United States. This was brought into sharp focus recently, when 30 separate New Jersey school buildings had to shut drinking fountains down after their water tested above the maximum "safe" threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lead levels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dismisses the idea of such a threshold, noting that "no safe blood lead level in children has been identified."
"Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement," the CDC says. "And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected."
Lead in schools nationwide?The poisoning of Flint began in April 2014, when the city stopped drawing its municipal water from Detroit's system, and instead began to draw it from the heavily contaminated Flint River. This water was so corrosive that it actually began to dissolve lead pipes across the city.
Months before the contamination of the water was made public, government officials knew about the problem, but did nothing about it. Internal emails have revealed that these officials actually mocked the concerns of residents who complained about the color, texture, taste and smell of their obviously contaminated water.
As horrible as the story of Flint is, the case of the Newark Public Schools is just as troubling. That's because the lead contamination at 30 Newark schools didn't happen due to a change in water supply, just due to mundane negligence.
On Monday, March 7, school officials learned that water fountains at 30 separate buildings in Newark's largest school district contained high levels of lead. But they did not act on this information until two days later, when they shut the water fountains down and notified parents of the problem. The state's Department of Environmental Protection rushed to reassure parents that drinking water alone should not cause a rise in blood levels of lead, seemingly ignoring what happened in Flint.
How did the lead get into the water coming from the fountains? Apparently, schools are particularly at risk for elevated lead in water, because their pipes regularly go unused on weekends and during school vacations. These long periods in which water sits stagnant – especially during the summer – give lead plenty of time to leach into the water not just from old lead pipes, but also from faucets and the connections between pipes.
Since children's brains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead, the specter of lead contamination and school drinking fountains nationwide is simply frightening.
It's up to us to protect our healthExperts have also warned that failing municipal water infrastructure and aging lead pipes places other cities at risk of having elevated levels of lead in their public water supplies. But the EPA has no plans to conduct testing to make sure that our public water supplies are safe.
That's why citizen scientist Mike Adams (the Health Ranger), executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, has partnered with a former NASA contract scientist to spend three months testing the water from at least 100 large U.S. cities for lead and other contaminants. Water samples are being collected from volunteers nationwide, and the results will be publicly posted on the website EPAWatch.org.
Adams has also tested several brands of popular water filters for their effectiveness at removing many contaminants, including lead. The results can be found at WaterFilterLabs.com.
Sources for this article include: