The Flint fiasco made us aware of the dangers posed by lead and this led to an increased awareness towards seeking lead replacements and lead alternatives. But are we doing enough to protect our children from the lead poisoning, considering that their schools are among the biggest culprits?
Rural Dedham. A small town close to Bangor. Not exciting enough to even make the news, except for the fact that schools in the area have been testing positive for lead poisoning. The original plumbing in the oldest parts of a 1950s schoolhouse is responsible for the high levels of lead. The sink has now been sequestered in a health clinic within the school and students and staff are cautioned to avoid the area. With all of Flint’s problems, one would expect authorities to be more proactive in dealing with the issue. However, given the cost of lead replacements, the state offered another alternative: simply don’t use it. Yet another sink located in the staff restroom also tested positive for lead, but there are no directives given on how to handle that particular problem.
Orange Center Elementary School has been missing its drinking fountains for more than two years. Blame the levels of lead in the water for their absence. Lead contamination was first discovered in the year 2003, but very little monitoring actually took place in the coming years. The school was asked to continue with annual lead tests, but there is no indication that these tests were even carried out. It was only in 2013, when the city submitted an application to connect the school to the city water system, that high levels of lead became a cause of concern. And even so, the problem isn’t expected to be solved before next year as the city of Fresno works towards replacing old pipes and facets and connecting the school to the municipal water system.
Drinking fountains at Brandeis Elementary School, Louisville have been monitored ever since the year 1988 for lead poisoning. In the year 2004, the Louisville Water Co. tested 155 schools, flagging those with lead results of 10 ppb or more. Michael Raisor, the Chief Operations Officer for the school system, noted that very few water fountains have actually been problematic. Two were found in two elementary schools in the year 2014. A locker room with particularly high levels of lead was also found in Atherton High School. However, the water has been flushed since, and the 2015 testings failed to report high levels of lead.
“When something like Flint happens, you want to make sure you’re not putting people at risk”, sums up Raisor, stating that the number one priority for the school system is to ensure student and staff safety. Ensuring that drinking water is actually safe for drinking isn’t a mere expectation, it is a moral responsibility.
Ava Head Start, Ozark Mountains. Coravallis Waldorf School, Oregon. There are many examples of schools testing positive for lead, yet we as a society, have a long way to go before we can start saying that we’re doing all we can to embrace lead alternatives and lead substitutes to make the world a better place for our future generations.