The EPA years ago decided the maximum containment levels for lead in drinking water should be zero.
It’s easy to understand why: lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.
Moreover, as the EPA notes on its website, “Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.”
Denver Water gets that. It’s now hoping to push through a proposal to remove lead service pipes from homes across the metro area — an action, as the Denver Post reported, rarely seen in the U.S. and one that could cost roughly $500 million and take 15 years.
Children, as we know, are especially vulnerable to lead contamination poisoning, and schools in Denver and elsewhere have faced some of the most intense scrutiny from concerned parents. To avoid dangerous public health impacts — and costly lawsuits — here are three ways schools can lower the health risk and their own liability exposure:
1. Test Regularly
There’s no federal mandate that schools test their water for lead contamination, but a growing number of states have tried to address that failing, including Colorado, New York and Virginia, among others. Older faucets and water fountains are common spots for leeching lead. Tests should be conducted at every source of drinking water to determine where the exposure is worst and the need for remediation most immediate. Relying on your water authority is not adequate. To get an accurate reading, samples should be drawn in the morning after the water has sat overnight and before any pipes are flushed. That includes even newer buildings, because of fixtures such as faucets and fountains that can contain lead.
2. Use Filters
Did you know it was the Egyptians who discovered that storing water in charcoal made it stay fresher and taste better? Ever since, carbon has been a standard feature in water treatment. We’re talking about carbon filters designed to trap lead particles. Note, however, that some filters work far better than others. Look for NSF Standard 53 certifications, which ensure that a filter removes mercury, cadmium and asbestos, and most importantly lead.
3. Replace Fixtures
Yes, of course, this will cost more than inspections and filters. But replacing taps and fountains with lead-free materials is the best way to address lead contamination short of replacing the entire plumbing system. Flushing out the pipes – even as part of a regular maintenance program – will not eliminate lead and does not address the root of the problem. Plumbing experts recommend products that have NSF-61-G or NSF-372 certification. This indicates that the material is lead-free and designed for high-use environments.
Morgan P. Mahoney, an Insurance Advisor and Assistant VP at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-330-7926 or Morgan.Mahoney@thinkccig.com.
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