While most lead exposure in children
is caused by contaminated paint, dust and
dirt, it is generally accepted that about 20
percent of overall exposure results from
contaminated drinking water. The presence of lead in drinking water has been
a concern for decades. That fear was
heightened recently because of the ongoing public health crisis caused by lead
contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water that began in 2014.
History of lead legislation &
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
was enacted by Congress in 1974 to pro-
tect public health by regulating the na-
tion’s public drinking water supply. The
1986 amendments to the SDWA set specific standards limiting the concentration
of lead in public water systems.
The Lead Contamination Control Act
of 1988 (LCCA) required states to establish remedial action programs for the removal of lead contaminants from drinking water systems in schools and day care
centers. However, in 1996, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declared unconstitutional the LCCA’s
requirement that the states establish remedial action programs for schools and
day care centers because it violated the
Tenth Amendment (ACORN v. Edwards).
Recognizing that lead enters drinking
WHAT LIABILITY DO
SCHOOLS AND DAY
CARES HAVE FOR LEAD-CONTAMINATED WATER?
water primarily through plumbing materials, in 1991, the EPA published a regulation known as the Lead and Copper Rule
(LCR). The LCR required public water
utilities to monitor lead concentrations in
drinking water, to undertake additional
steps if action levels were exceeded, and
to then inform the public of steps that
should be taken to protect health.
Federal law prohibited consumer use of
lead-based paint beginning in 1978. However, the use of lead pipes, plumbing fixtures
and solder was not banned until 1986. Even
then, brass plumbing fixtures contained
significant amounts of lead until 2014.
How drinking water is supplied
In the United States, 90 percent of the
population is provided with drinking water through public water systems. About
80 percent of schools and day care centers
also receive drinking water through public water systems.
All public water systems are required to
comply with the EPA’s Lead and Copper
Rule, which requires testing for lead con-
The CDC and other experts agree that there is no amount of exposure to lead that is considered “safe.” The effects of exposure to lead on the human body are well-known. Young children, especially those age six
and under, are particularly susceptible to its effects — behavioral,
cognitive and physical — which can be irreversible.