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Study Finds Unsafe Lead Levels in AZ School Water

Almost half the water taps tested in Arizona schools were found to have unsafe levels of lead. (Phase4Photography/AdobeStock)
Almost half the water taps tested in Arizona schools were found to have unsafe levels of lead. (Phase4Photography/AdobeStock)
September 4, 2019

PHOENIX – A consumer advocacy group says Arizona school districts need to do more to protect students, after the state found unsafe levels of lead in almost half the water taps tested in schools.

The most recent study based on data from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality cites dangerous levels of lead in drinking water in 48% of more than 13,000 taps tested in schools across the state.

Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, said the effects of lead on young children are well documented and that kids shouldn't be exposed to it.

"Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how children learn, grow and behave," she said. "Lead has been linked to loss of IQ points, increased hyperactivity and damage to the nervous system."

Brown said Arizona's safe drinking-water standards are far below those recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Given the widespread use of lead in faucets, fountains and plumbing, she said, Arizona's poor test results could indicate even more problems.

The study gave Arizona schools a letter grade of "D" for how they manage their water systems. To improve, Brown said, school districts must commit to replacing faucets, water fountains and other lead-bearing parts. She said they also need to add water filters and implement a program of follow-up testing - all of which are likely to be a costly course of action.

"School districts are going to need help with resources," she said. "State government can help with financial resources. The federal government also needs to ensure adequate funding to get the lead out of drinking water in school."

Brown added that recent moves to cut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget are a step in the wrong direction. She said both school and state officials need to work with Congress to see that more funds are available to focus on clean drinking water for Arizona students.

The PIRG report is online at arizonapirgedfund.org.

Disclosure: Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Energy Policy, Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ