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States Have Failed To Remove Lead Risk in Schools, Group Charges

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Washington--States and schools have not done enough to ensure that students are not exposed to potentially hazardous amounts of lead in the drinking water of schools and day-care centers, the Natural Resources Defense Council charges in a new report.

Based on a survey of the 50 states and 3 territories, the advocacy group concludes that most states have not met the requirements of the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988, which required states to implement by August 1989 a program to help schools and day-centers test for lead in their drinking water.

The law also required schools that tested for lead in their water supply to notify the public about their results. However, the law did not explicitly require schools to test for lead. The Congress has also failed to appropriate any money for the program, which is authorized to receive $30 million annually.

"On the whole, the nationwide assessment of lead in school drinking water that should have been stimulated by the lcca has not occurred," the report said. "Instead, the states' attempts to comply have been glaringly inadequate."

Spotty Compliance

According to the report, only 4 of the 47 states and territories that had done any testing said they had sampled the water in 95 percent to 100 percent of their schools. Twenty-seven said they had sampled 25 percent to 82 percent of their schools, and 16 reported sampling in less than 25 percent of their schools. Even lower percentages were reported by the states and territories for testing in day-care centers.

The report also found spotty compliance with other parts of the law. States sponsored only limited efforts at remedying the problem, and schools in only 19 states and territories took inventory of water coolers with lead-lined tanks, as compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The millions of children at risk from lead contamination in their school and day-care drinking water are a vulnerable population," the report concluded.

Last year, an internal epa audit found similar flaws in the program.3

It said that the agency and state officials had fallen short in their efforts to encourage all schools to test for lead. It found that the lead levels in the water of many schools remains too high, and that testing pro grams often are inadequate. (See Education Week, Oct. 17, 1990.)

Late last week, the House Sub committee on Health and the Environment was slated to hold a hearing on a bill that would require schools to test for lead in their drinking water. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.

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