Posts Tagged: lead
The first study of California law that requires schools to test tap water for lead found that the majority completed the testing on time, and only 3% reported any tested taps with lead in the water higher than the state's 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit. About 30% of the 240 randomly selected public schools in the study didn't report their results within three months of the deadline.
The study, Water Safety in California Public Schools Following Implementation of School Drinking Water Policies, was published in the January issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online publication.
“Because we strongly encourage people to drink water rather than sugary beverages, we need to have confidence that tap water is safe,” she said. “But this is a complex issue with shared responsibility among public water systems, school administrators and regulating agencies.”
Access to safe drinking water in schools is essential to help avoid the developmental and health consequences for children associated with consuming contaminated water, under hydration or excessive intake of sugary beverages.
Schools that get water from public utilities can expect the water they receive to meet federal and state water quality standards. However, 16% of study schools received water from a utility that violated health-based standards, such as elevated levels of contaminants or failure to adhere to disinfectant protocols. When water flows into buildings through pipes that contain lead – such as those made entirely of lead, or galvanized iron or leaded brass, or connected with lead solder – and especially when water sits stagnant in lead-containing plumbing, lead may leach into the water before it flows from the tap.
In October 2017, California passed Assembly Bill 746, which mandated that public water utilities sample and test for lead in tap water of public schools that were built before 2010. The law is designed to identify and mitigate sources of lead in water. Funds to upgrade school drinking-water plumbing were also earmarked in the state budget. Working with their local water suppliers, the schools selected taps for sampling. The number of taps that released water with lead was very low, and even those sources are not necessarily unhealthy for drinking, Hecht said.
“When we test tap water, we're not talking about every drop of water that comes from the tap,” she said. “We test the first water that comes out of the tap after it has been stagnant in the pipes. Once the taps are in use and water is flowing, the lead level should drop dramatically.”
Although few schools (3%) had even one tap in violation of California state standards for lead, violations increased to 16% when the federal Food and Drug Administration standard for bottled water was applied. The FDA requires that bottled water not exceed 5 ppb of lead.
The 174 schools in the study collectively tested 1,238 independent water sources – such as playground, hallway and gym drinking fountains, classroom faucets, food service areas and restroom taps in 2019. Some of the tests took place in locations that serve staff, such as teachers' lounges, nurses' stations, distribution sources and maintenance areas. Without detailed guidelines to follow, some schools tested only 1 tap; others tested as many as 76.
“Testing only a subset of taps in a facility prevents full identification of which schools need to undertake lead remediation actions,” Hecht said.
Hecht and her co-authors – Isioma Umunna, Anisha Patel and Lauren Blacker of Stanford University, Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, and Emily Altman of UC Berkeley – conclude that, in the future, states should require schools to test to nondetectable levels of lead for maximum data collection and require that at least one water source in food service areas be tested.
The information and recommendations from the study are already informing California legislation designed to protect children from lead exposure from water. A new law, Assembly Bill 2370, will require all licensed childcare centers to test taps for lead by 2021 and every 5 years thereafter. The inconsistencies experienced in AB 746 compliance revealed the need for detailed guidelines on the number of taps facilities should test, the required locations for testing, clear naming conventions to identify taps and reporting procedures.
California recently passed a law that will ban the use of lead ammunition when taking wildlife with a firearm. The intent is to protect scavenging birds and other wildlife from the threats of lead poisoning from spent lead ammunition.
While the new law, which was passed on Oct. 11, 2013, will be phased in over the next six years, the research that helped shape it has been going on for some time and much of it was done by researchers at the University of California, Davis.
Scavenging birds and other animals are susceptible to lead poisoning when they inadvertently ingest spent pellets or bullet fragments in the tissues of animals killed by lead-based ammunition.
"Lead is a soft metal, so it fragments upon impact leaving hundreds of pieces around the wounded area of the animal," Kelly said. "Many scavengers forage in large groups, meaning a single carcass or gut-pile containing spent lead ammunition can expose many individuals."
Kelly and Johnson’s studies were funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and published by the journal PLoS ONE in 2011.
While their research illuminates the threat posed by lead ammunition, Kelly and Johnson make clear that hunting itself is not the issue at hand.
"Hunting is an irreplaceable tool for wildlife management, especially now that we have fewer large predators but more invasive species like wild pigs," said Johnson in 2011, when the studies were published. "Yet we know that accidental consumption of lead can make animals and people sick."
"It just makes good sense to use non-lead ammunition, wherever it is available, to protect wildlife as well as eliminate any potential risk to hunters and their families," she added.
Lead poisoning has been an ongoing issue for birds at rehabilitation facilities, with Golden Eagles being hit especially hard.
"By the time they get to the center, we’re often unable to treat them because they’re so close to death," said Michelle Hawkins, director of the school's California Raptor Center. "We put in our best efforts, but very commonly it’s a losing battle. Prevention is definitely the way to keep these birds from having this problem."
National Geographic published a story about the lead ban on Oct. 11, quoting Johnson on the need for long-term monitoring of birds. She and Kelly say it should start right away so that wildlife can be tracked between now and 2019, when the law must be in full effect.
Oregonian blogger Carrie Sturrock called around the country on a quest for commentary about lead contamination in her own backyard. One of the sources she found was UC Cooperative Extension's Don Hodel of Los Angeles County.
Sturrock wrote that she lives in a house built in 1911, well before regulations banned lead in house paint. She deduced that lead sluffed, scraped or sanded from the siding may be in the soil, so she wanted to find out whether eating home-grown fruits and vegetables posed a health risk.
Soil testing revealed elevated levels of lead in her backyard soil. However, Hodel assured her, "Plants don't take it up that much. ... I really don't think it's a danger."
Another scientist had a different opinion. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, an associate professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health, said that at 300 ppm or greater, leafy greens and herbs can take lead up in greater amounts.
Sturrock concluded that she won't quit gardening, but will take some precautions.
"I had thought about growing strawberries on the soil that's at 306 (ppm), but now I don't know -- maybe I'll try tomatoes, which are tall plants," she wrote. "As for the raspberry bushes, most everyone said I shouldn't worry about eating the fruit. Just wash it first."
A group of Latino high school students, working with Kathleen Nolan of UC Cooperative Extension in Monterey County, have created a new fotonovela to teach their peers about the hazards of lead poisoning. "Fotonovela" is comic-book-like literature popular in Mexico. In this instance, it is an educational pamphlet that features photos of the students with thought and speech bubbles telling a story.
According to a news article in the Salinas Californian yesterday, the students' fotonovela tells the story of six students who call themselves "lead detectives" to investigate what's wrong with the young neice of one of the characters.
"I'm so worried about my sobrina ~ she's almost 4 and should be talking by now," one fotonovela character says.
The project came about when Nolan asked Alisal High School Health Academy co-coordinator Nathan Voigtschild about assembling a group of students interested in making an educational booklet on lead.
"I asked a few of them and they were really into it," Voigtschild was quoted in the newspaper article. He added that he didn't offer any extra credit for participating in the project. "We wanted them to do it because they wanted to."
The Californian article, written by Kimber Solana, said 3,000 copies of the booklet will be printed - half of those in Spanish, half in English. "Get the Lead Out" and other educational fotonovelas produced by Monterey County high school students are published online in pdf format on the Monterey County UCCE Web site.
At their final meeting Tuesday, the students were honored for their achievement and surprised with $50 gift certificates, made possible by support from the Public Health Trust, Nolan said.
"One of the girls blushed and said, 'Now I can buy a graduation dress.'" Nolan said.
Get the Lead Out fotonovela.