According to the Portland Press Herald, about one-third of the sites sampled so far in Maine’s statewide testing of school water exceed the acceptable limit for lead (https://www.pressherald.com/2022/02/15/about-a-third-of-sites-tested-in-maines-schools-exceed-limit-for-lead-in-water/). While there is no safe level of lead that can be consumed in the body, Maine set its acceptable limit for lead in drinking water at 4 parts per billion, which is stricter than the federal standard of 15 ppb. The state passed a law requiring schools to test water for lead and is using a federal grant of around $1 million to pay for it. The program began on Oct. 1, 2021 and will run through May 31, 2022. School officials are required to publicly share the test results, which can be viewed here: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/dwp/cet/documents/SchoolLeadResults.pdf
Results throughout schools vary widely, with much of the lead contamination being tied to old plumbing fixtures like sinks and water fountains. According to Amy Lachance, manager of the state’s drinking water program, there is no money in the state’s budget to fix the high lead level problems, only identify them. Fountains with high lead levels have been decommissioned until the lead levels can be remediated and retested.
According to the CDC, exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, including
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Slowed growth and development
- Learning and behavior problems
- Hearing and speech problems
If you think your child has been in contact with lead, contact your child’s healthcare provider. He or she can help you decide whether to have your child tested. A blood lead test is the easiest way to find out if your child has been exposed to lead. Most children with lead in their blood have no symptoms.