ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Florida today launched a new Get the Lead Out campaign calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Florida’s schools. An analysis by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center gave Florida a grade of F for failing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.
“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Florida is failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Jennifer Rubiello, Environment Florida State Director. “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”
As more Florida schools test their water, they are finding lead. FAMU Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Don Axelrad and FSU Professor Vincent Salters tested 24 schools in Leon and Wakulla counties and found levels of lead that exceed what the America Academy of Pediatrics deems as safe.
“Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Dr. Ron Saff, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine. “There is no safe level of lead for children.”
Yet a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. For example, the report cites new data from Massachusetts, where half of more than 40,000 tests conducted last year showed some level of lead in water from taps at school.
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 requires nothing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. In Environment Florida’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Florida a grade of F.
“Florida is in the Stone Age when it comes to protecting kids from lead in school drinking water,” said Dr. Saff. “We need to be removing lead-bearing plumbing parts from our schools. When youngsters go to class, their IQ should be expanded. Tragically, when they drink lead laced water found in school taps and water fountains, it shaves off IQ points.”
“I’m disappointed to find that Florida’s efforts are an F at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school,” said Nicole Crumbsy, whose children attend school in Hillsborough County. “I don’t want to worry about my children drinking water with lead. Our kids deserve better. It’s time to get the lead out.”
The report identifies key solutions to ensuring clean drinking water in schools including removing lead service lines, requiring filters certified to remove lead at every tap used for drinking and cooking, and allowing no more than 1 part per billion of lead in water at school, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Parents in other states are demanding action too. Environment Florida’s counterparts are working with doctors, parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.