Have you recently heard from your child’s school about lead testing? Here’s what you need to know.
Throughout 2024, schools across Missouri will be lead testing all drinking water outlets, such as water fountains. Schools are required to post their testing results and any remediation plans on their website within two weeks of receiving the results.
This is because in 2022, the Missouri legislature passed the “Get the Lead out of School Drinking Water Act.” This new law sets standards for lead concentrations in school drinking water and also opens up funding for testing and addressing this important issue.
This is an extremely important step towards protecting children in our state. There is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead primarily affects the brain and nervous system and can cause serious health problems, especially in young children.
If you hear from your child’s school about potential lead exposure, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help guide your next steps. Read on to learn more.
How Old is Your Child?
Lead is toxic to everyone, but children younger than 6 years old are at the highest risk of developing negative health effects, even at very low blood lead levels. Their bodies and brains absorb lead more easily than those of older kids and adults.
Does Your Child Drink the Water at School?
Think about how much water your child may drink at school. Does your child drink from the school water fountain? If your older child is just taking a few sips of water from the water fountain, it’s not likely to increase their lead level. But if your younger child is drinking several glasses of water a day, it could lead to a higher exposure level.
Note: Washing hands with tap water from the faucet will not lead to lead poisoning.
Could Your Child Have Other Exposures to Lead?
The majority of documented lead exposures in the state come from a child’s home environment. Your child may have other possible exposures to lead if they:
• live in a house built before 1978 (when lead paint was banned), especially if there is peeling or cracking paint
• have pica (eating dirt or paint chips)
• are around a parent who is exposed to lead at work (for example, through welding, auto repair, or construction) or through a hobby (like stained glass, home remodeling, or lead soldering)
Take steps to make sure your child is not being exposed to lead at home. The EPA’s website has information on ways to do this.
What Should I Do if Lead Is Reported in the Drinking Water at My Child’s School?
If you believe that your child has been exposed to lead – whether at home, at school, or somewhere else — talk to your child’s healthcare provider. Your child’s healthcare provider can recommend needed services if it is determined that your child has been exposed to lead.
Children sometimes receive a simple blood test to check for lead at their 1- and 2-year regular checkups. If your child’s school is reporting elevated levels of lead and you feel your child is at risk, talk to your child’s health care provider to determine if your child has had a recent test.
Where Can I Learn More About Lead Exposure?
If you have questions about lead poisoning, talk to your doctor. You can also find more information online from…
This Q&A is presented with thanks to Jonathan M. Miller, MD and Nemours Children’s Health.