Lead contamination is worrisome for any parent. Although exposure to lead in the environment has been reduced thanks to the introduction of unleaded gasoline and removal of lead from paint, old lead pipes are still a big concern. As many U.S. schools age, the pipes become a potential danger.
Why should parents be worried about lead exposure?
Younger children are at the most risk of health issues from lead exposure. But even children of elementary school age and older can be impacted by lead poisoning, as it causes behavioral issues, learning delays and problems with attention span. Permanent damage can result if exposure continues.
Which schools are at risk?
More than 350 schools have more than the suggested limit of 15 parts per billion, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests conducted between 2012 and 2015. These schools are not predominantly in poor neighborhoods; excess lead levels may be present in just about any school that is old enough to have used lead pipes. Lead pipes are stable for a very long time, but over the years, they can corrode and small bits of lead can get into the water.
How often do schools test for lead?
There are no federal regulations that control how often public elementary schools must test their environment -- including their drinking water -- for excess lead. Right now, testing is completely voluntary. Many schools test regularly so they can be on top of any issues that may come up, but others never test.
Can a school that fails to test its drinking water for lead be considered negligent?
Parents have filed lawsuits against school districts that knew about lead problems in some or all of their school buildings and did not take action to prevent children from drinking contaminated water. A lawsuit filed against the Newark, N.J. school district is one recent example of legal action taken by parents against what they feel is negligence.
Can an environmental law attorney help you if you suspect your school has issues with lead contamination?
Even if you don't ultimately decide to file a lawsuit, working with an environmental law attorney can help get more attention to the issue of lead contamination in schools. A skilled lawyer can bring attention to environmental issues, including lead poisoning, and work to get schools up to speed on the issues and how to fix them. Most environmental law attorneys are most concerned about stopping the dangers to children's health and will work with parents and school districts to eliminate lead in drinking water.
Do you have concerns about potential lead contamination in your elementary school child's drinking water? Contact an environmental law attorney for a review of your options and to find out whether you have a case.
For more information, contact Moore Smith Buxton & Turcke-Chartered or a similar firm.