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Report: Florida Gets Failing Grade for Getting Lead Out of Water

A new report urges Florida school districts to be proactive about getting lead out of drinking water. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
A new report urges Florida school districts to be proactive about getting lead out of drinking water. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
February 20, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a new report says lead in schools' drinking water is a pervasive problem, and it gives Florida a failing grade for policies to address the issue.

Environment America and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group are launching "Get the Lead Out" - a campaign to prompt state and local officials to eliminate lead in drinking water in schools. The focus is on 16 states, including Florida.

Yanna Lambrinidou is a researcher at Virginia Tech and a national expert on lead and drinking water. She said older school buildings are especially vulnerable to corrosion in pipes.

"When water sits in plumbing for a prolonged period of time, it has the opportunity to absorb more lead from the lead-bearing plumbing than if it just kept moving through the pipes,” Lambrinidau said.

Researchers found lead in 24 Florida schools tested in two counties. In the spring of 2016, Tallahassee physician Ron Saff spearheaded efforts to test for lead in the water at 16 north Florida schools. They found lead at all 16.

Many states, including Florida, do not require testing for lead in public schools.

John Rumpler, clean water program director with the group Environment America, co-authored the report. He said more needs to be done, because lead is affecting children's health.

"It is estimated that 24 million children across the country will lose IQ points due to low levels of lead exposure. That is a really serious, widespread problem,” Rumpler said; "not just a few cities, all across the country."

The report called for schools to remove lead service lines, including lead-bearing parts, and install and maintain water filters certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. It also urged school districts to be proactive in taking these steps before testing shows lead levels too high to be considered safe for children.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL