Report gives Colorado an “F” when it comes to making school drinking water lead-free

DENVER -- A new report said Colorado is failing to make sure drinking water in Colorado schools is lead-free and researchers hope these results prompt school districts, communities and law makers to make changes.

The report was put together by U.S. PIRG and Environment America. It surveyed states across the U.S. and gave Colorado an "F," along with 21 other states.

The study assessed states on a grading scale of 0 to 200 and examined five different areas in the fight to keep lead out of school drinking water. The categories included testing protocols, "Get The Lead Out" steps, lead standard in water, applicability and public disclosure and transparency. The group gave Colorado 15 out of 200, indicating that Colorado fell short in every category.

Colorado currently uses 15 parts per billion as the testing standard for lead in Colorado schools and if school water tests at or higher than 15 ppb, schools must take action. However, researchers say 15 ppb is too high, instead the standard should be lowered to 0 ppb, which is in line with standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics which say children should not be exposed to any level of lead.

According to the EPA, even low levels of lead exposure for children have been linked to nervous system damage, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, shorter stature and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

While some Colorado schools test for lead, Danny Katz with CoPIRG said lead testing at Colorado schools falls short. Katz pointed out that while schools can test for lead, it's not a requirement. Katz said testing in schools should include testing all faucets and fountains used for drinking and cooking, taking multiple samples from the same tap, and testing frequently -- researchers said Colorado doesn't do any of those things. Katz said Colorado did get credit for posting the results of schools that do conduct lead testing. Parents can view those results here.

"We don’t have a requirement that every school needs to test so I can’t tell you here are all the schools, here’s how they test," said Katz. "We don’t require testing across the board and quite frankly, testing is one step toward the actual solution."

The groups behind the study want changes to happen on two levels. First, it wants to see schools add filters to keep lead out of school drinking water, proactively replace infrastructure, conduct better tests and conduct those tests more frequently.

On the state and national level, the groups hope this research pushes law makers to enact stricter laws to force school districts to change, and provide funding to help them make those changes.

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