The metal lead is both ubiquitous in the human environment and highly neurotoxic. With the recent lead-in-drinking-water crisis in Flint Michigan, there is renewed attention on drinking water as a source of lead exposure particularly in children whose developing brains are most sensitive to neurological damage from lead exposure.
While US sources of drinking water are most often low in lead levels, the use of lead for drinking water service pipes, plumbing fixtures and in solder used to connect pipes or to connect pipes to plumbing fixtures, may add significant amounts of lead to drinking water. Recently the American Medical Association recommended that drinking water in all US schools be tested for lead levels.
In July and August 2016, a research team from FAMU IPH sampled 8 schools in Wakulla County and 16 elementary schools in Leon County respectively for the toxic metal lead in drinking water (drinking fountains and school cafeteria water taps).
The research team comprised Dr. Donald M. Axelrad, Ph.D. (FAMU IPH), Dr. Alan Becker (FAMU IPH), Dr. Ronald Saff MD (private practice), Dr. Vincent Salters (FSU Mag Lab), Dr. Charles Jagoe (FAMU SoE), Dr. Jeremy Owens (FSU Mag Lab), and FAMU IPH students Mr. David Gbogbo and Mr. Olasunkanmi Fasakin.
We found that several drinking water samples from Leon County Schools were “elevated” regarding lead levels and 2 (out of 32) were out of compliance with the US EPA standard (15 μg L−1). There are several standards/recommendations for lead levels in drinking water (1, 5, 15, 20) , but considering the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended drinking water standard of 1 μg L−1 lead, 30 out of 32 Leon County Schools’ samples exceeded this.
Leon County Schools took immediate action routinely flushing water pipes thus reducing lead levels.
On the basis of our findings, and as per our recommendation, Leon County Schools is considering additional action, namely a “Water Quality Assurance Program” for the Leon County School district.