Understanding Lead Testing in Drinking Water

The conclusion of public health experts and agencies is now unanimous: there is no safe level of lead for our children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that low levels of lead exposure leads to cognitive deficits and behavioral problems.  A recent paper produced by Environment America entitled, Get the Lead Out: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water for Our Children at School explains that “Most schools are not testing for lead at all. And even in those states and school districts that are testing, much of the available data is limited to test results showing concentrations in excess of 15 ppb (or a 20 ppb equivalent for schools, using a different sampling method). Yet we know that lead is toxic at very low levels.”

Massachusetts is one of the few states to include test results confirming lead in concentrations below the 15 ppb level. Moreover, the data is extensive, with more than 40,000 test results reported by schools as of January 2017.  As the below graphic demonstrates, almost 18,000 drinking outlets tested showed levels of lead but only around 3,000 tested over 15 parts per billion (ppb), which is the EPA’s actionable level and has been adopted by most states.  Therefore, all of the other outlets that have lead in the drinking water will not be remediated.

Almost 18,000 drinking water sources were not remediated because they did not test above 15ppb

Almost 18,000 drinking water sources were not remediated because they did not test above 15ppb

We know that low exposures to lead result in cognitive and behavioral defects; therefore, schools should take action to remediate any drinking water source that tests above 1ppb.  Washington, D.C.’s new policy adopted this more stringent requirement to take action on any drinking source that test above 1ppb of lead in schools and recreation centers.

 FACT endorses and supports this policy and encourages all schools, daycare centers, and communities to take action to remediate drinking water sources that have more than 1ppb of lead.