The Oakland Unified School District of California has found that in order to address high levels of lead in the water taps at its schools, it will cost around $38 million. A cost the district plans to spread out over five years. (About $22 million of that will be used to replace old water lines and $16 million will replace drinking water and sink fixtures.)
Oakland Unified spokesman John Sasaki said, “This work would be funded in a way to protect classroom funding, and we are currently looking for funding to help pay for this work elsewhere. So, there is no reason to believe that this work would cause budget reductions for the district.”1
But budget’s should be the least of their worries. Lead is dangerous to growing brains and of first importance should be cleaning up pipes and faucet heads so that our young minds aren’t put in harms way.
So far, fifteen Oakland Unified schools “have been found to have at least one water fixture with lead levels exceeding the federal recommended cap of 15 parts per billion,”2 so Oakland Unified is continuing to test water taps at all its schools (including some charter schools) and the East Bay Municipal Utility District will conduct a second round of testing. So far, the district has replaced some of the high-lead fixtures and others have been taken out of commission until they are replaced.3
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But advocates are urging the district to do more and replace fixtures that have lead levels exceeding one part per billion (which goes beyond federal guidelines) because The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that “fixtures with any more than one part per billion of lead to be dangerous for children.”
According to Oakland pediatrician Dr. Noemi Spinazzi, children’s bodies can absorb a lot of lead, which stores in the bones, liver, blood and brain. An excess of the metal in the body of a child can lead to anemia, poor growth, fatigue, learning difficulties and even lower IQ levels and developmental delays. No expense should be spared.
With that in mind, Jason Pfeifle, a health advocate for the consumer group CalPIRG, delivered a petition to the school board at its Jan. 24 meeting. The petition, which had been signed by more than 1,000 people, urged the district to create a policy requiring each and every water tap in the entire district to be tested and changed should the tap contain more than one part per billion of lead.
We will be watching this story.