Detroit Schools Turn Off Drinking Water Over Lead Contamination Concerns

Public schools in Detroit are shutting off their drinking water due to concerns of copper and lead contamination, after high levels of these heavy metals were found in samples taken from several school buildings, Detroit Free Press recently reported.

The district superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has indicated that schools will make water coolers and bottled water available to students when they return to classes this week.

Lead in Water

Recent tests conducted on public water supplies in 24 schools in Detroit found at least one drinking water source, i.e. tap or water fountain, at 16 of the schools had elevated levels of lead and/or copper at concentrations deemed to be unsafe.

african-american-boy-take-a-drink-of-cool-water-from-one-of-the-schools-water-fountains Lead in Drinking Water lead water filter Lead in Drinking Water

According to Vitti, 18 other schools have already had their drinking water sources shut off due to water contamination issues identified prior to this latest scare. More than fifty other schools were also tested, but while there is no indication that the water supply at these schools is tainted with copper or lead, officials are erring on the side of caution as they await the results of tests conducted on water samples taken from these schools.

"Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said in a public statement.

There are more than 100 public schools within the Detroit district, but authorities have not released any details with regard to the water tests or given any indication as to what could have contributed to the high levels of lead and copper in the drinking water of affected schools.

However, the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, who are jointly responsible for supplying drinking water to the city, released a joint statement blaming the schools' aging water infrastructure for the water quality issues they are experiencing, saying they do not affect consumers across the city as the treated drinking water they supply surpasses all drinking water standards for safety and quality. According to the statement, there are no lead water pipes connected to the schools' plumbing; copper and lead can leach into drinking water if pipes that contain these metals corrode.

Exposure to heavy metals such as lead and copper in drinking water can pose a number of serious health issues, the EPA regulates that water systems need to be fixed when concentrations of these heavy metals exceed safety levels, which is set at zero for lead.

Children are particularly vulnerable to negative health effects of lead, as these occur at a much lower exposure level in children compared to adults. Even small doses can have a serious impact on the health of a child — exposure to lead at low levels can damage the nervous system, cause learning difficulties and impair hearing and formation and healthy functioning of blood cells in children, while higher levels can cause cognitive and behavioral disorders, and delayed puberty.

This precautionary move to protect learners from potential contamination follows the ongoing water crisis in Flint, where residents have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water putting the broader community at risk.

Lead Water Filter

If you are concerned about the quality of water your child is exposed to while attending classed, you can take measures to ensure they remain safe. Invest in a portable water filter bottle or water purification kit that will remove lead, copper and other dangerous heavy metals as well as other harmful contaminants your child may be exposed to on a daily basis.

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