Yonkers School Officials Find Unsafe Lead Levels in Three Dozen Water Fixtures

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

School officials in Yonkers, New York have shut off three dozen water fixtures found to have unsafe lead levels, the school district announced last month.

The district faced criticism for being slow to release results of the water testing that began in March, according to Lohud.com. The district began sending letters to parents with test results on May 25.

More than 420 water fixtures—sinks and water fountains—were tested in the district’s 39 schools; 36 fixtures were found to have lead levels above the federal threshold of 20 parts per billion — including a reading of 1,040 parts per billion in the nurse’s office at one elementary school.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level for public water suppliers is 15 parts per billion, but for drinking water outlets like fountains or sinks, the EPA action level is 20 ppb. Jerilynne Fierstein, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the testing is not yet finished so the report is not yet final, Lohud reports.

At a May 20th news conference, Yonkers school officials said that about 80 district water fountains and faucets had been found to have unsafe lead levels, including one with a high of 2,230 parts per billion—more than 100 times the federal threshold. That fountain or faucet was not listed among the released reports on the district’s website. District officials said results of the testing at each school would be released only after all of the water fixtures at that school was completed, according to Lohud. Schools Superintendent Edwin Quezada said officials are not “comfortable releasing information that’s incomplete.”

According to the results released so far, 12 Yonkers schools had at least one water fixture that tested above the EPA threshold for safe drinking water for schools. Eight other schools had no fixtures that tested as unsafe: Casimir Pulaski School, Cedar Place School, Gibran School, Montessori School 27, Paideia School 15, Scholastic Academy, School 17 and School 22.

Children exposed to lead can suffer irreversible damage to their developing brains and neurological systems. Exposure to lead can affect a child’s IQ, the ability to pay attention, and, ultimately, can have a serious negative impact on academic achievement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no safe level of lead in the blood. Even a small amount can cause harm.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan prompted concern in communities across the nation, particularly in school districts with older buildings with water lines and plumbing fixtures that leach lead. Lead in school water has been a problem in school districts including Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Newark, New Jersey. The New York Times reports that Baltimore schools have used bottled water for drinking and cooking since 2007, and Camden, New Jersey has used bottled water for 14 years. Parents of Newark Public School students have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming that thousands of students were “poisoned” by exposure to toxic levels of lead in school water from March 2011 to the present. The lead caused gastrointestinal problems and cognitive-health problems.