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Baltimore – Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Maryland PIRG is calling on the state legislature to establish lead testing in all Maryland schools. An analysis by Maryland PIRG gave Maryland a failing grade 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 Maryland is not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr, “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”
Delegate Stephen Lafferty has introduced a new bill, HB0270 to require testing for lead in drinking water in Maryland public and private schools. The bill also calls for immediate shut off of outlets with elevated lead and remediation measures to permanently remove the lead. The hearing for the bill will be Friday, the 24th in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
“I filed this bill because no parent should have to worry whether their child is drinking water at school that contains lead,” said Delegate Stephen Lafferty, “We owe it to our kids to make sure they are safe from potential harm."
In December, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin helped lead efforts to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 which includes $100 million for school and child care lead testing, and an investment of $300 million over five years in grant funding for the replacement of lead service pipes, testing, planning, corrosion control and education.
As more schools test their water, they are finding lead. Baltimore City has lead the way in testing and due to pervasive lead contamination, all Baltimore schools have been using bottled water since 2007. The city has a plan to build lead free schools, but some of the state isn’t testing for lead in school water..
The new report by the Maryland PIRG Foundation 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.
“Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Scarr. “There is no safe level of lead for children.”
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 does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. Baltimore has been a trailblazer in testing for lead in school water and looking for a safer alternative when lead was found; however; there is no state law requiring testing in schools and many schools are not testing. These shortcomings gave Maryland an F grade.
“We were disappointed to find that Maryland’s efforts are failing to protect most children from lead at school. Our kids deserve better.” Said Scarr.
Delegate Lafferty’s measure has wide support, including support from Maryland PIRG, the Maryland Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maryland Food and Water Watch, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, and others.
Maryland PIRG’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.
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