Pennsylvania Does Not Require Schools to Test for Lead in Drinking Water

Pennsylvania Does Not Require Schools to Test for Lead in Drinking Water

The statewide advocacy group, Penn Environment, has given Pennsylvania a failing grade for lead in school drinking water due to not requiring lead testing in schools.  This is the second time in two years that a failing grade has been given to Pennsylvania in the “Get the Lead Out” report. Some schools voluntarily test for lead, but they do not need to inform parents or the public about their findings or fix high lead levels if found. Lead is a known neurotoxin and there is no safe level of the substance for children. Even low levels in a child’s blood can cause learning and behavioral problems, slowed growth, and other side effects.

A bill in the state House could require annual testing of water used for drinking and cooking in schools, require the results be disclosed to parents, and create a statewide lead concentration standard of lead being no higher than five parts per billion. The threshold would be better than the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion. State representative Karen Boback introduced a similar bill and received 70 cosponsors, but it never went to the floor to be voted on.

Pennsylvania was one of 21 states to receive a failing grade, but there are ways to fix this. The report mentioned replacing water fountains, faucets, and other plumbing that could possibly contain lead. Filters could also be installed and a one part per billion threshold could be adopted. Schools could also follow the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ example. It started to voluntarily test for lead a year after the Federal declaration in Flint, Michigan. It took 4,700 samples and 141 of them came back higher than the recommended levels, so 14 drinking fountains were replaced and 300 bottle filling stations were added. The district tests for lead every three years, and the testing is going to be done again this year with the results being released to parents and the public in June.

Ashley Murray and Elizabeth Behrman, “Report: Pennsylvania gets ‘F’ for not addressing lead in school drinking water” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 26, 2019). [Link]

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