Dangerous Toxins Taint Drinking Water in Many Schools

The Associated Press (AP) is breaking with news that not only has the drinking water at thousands of schools nationwide been found to contain a variety of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">dangerous toxins, but its investigation found these contaminants to be present in schools in every state.

Unsafe and dangerous levels of pesticides, leads, and an array of other chemicals and toxins have been found in schools’ drinking water and, worse, said the AP, the issue is basically going unchecked by the government, with the problem escalating and most prevalent at schools in which water is fed by wells. About one in five schools has been found in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the past ten years, said the AP, citing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Schools with well water were not the only culprits, said the AP. Schools utilizing public water tested with higher lead concentrations, which can occur for a number, for instance, when lead flakes from lead-soldered pipes and lead levels increase during a school’s down time. Worse, said the AP, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey found about half of the schools in the United States do not test for lead.

“It’s an outrage,” said Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech University who has been honored for his work on water quality, quoted the AP. “If a landlord doesn’t tell a tenant about lead paint in an apartment, he can go to jail. But we have no system to make people follow the rules to keep school children safe?”

Exposure to lead in children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

Well-fed schools account for between eight and 11 percent of schools nationwide, said the AP, which also noted that in the farming community in California, some schools tested very high with pesticides as well, forcing students to drinks from other sources.

The revelation has unearthed a number of issues. First, said the AP, drinking water is under the purview of a variety of agencies at the state, local, and federal level, with risks not being reported. According to the EPA, the violations have increased because of stricter standards for specific contaminants, for instance, arsenic and some disinfectants, said the AP. Also, the toxins have significant adverse effects on children because not only are their younger bodies more susceptible to the effects of toxins, but children—per pound—drink more water than adults, said to the AP.

According to the federal database of schools with water supplies from 1998 to 2008, the AP found that water in some 100 districts and 2,250 schools violated federal safety standards for a total of 5,550 violations. The EPA noted that the violations database is rife with problems and missing information and does not monitor specific state information on school water quality, said the AP, which—according to critics—does not enable the government from locating offenders and enforcing standards.

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