Detroit is the latest school district to shut off drinking water in public schools.

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Nearly two thirds of the 100 public schools in Detroit found lead, a potent neuro-toxin, in their drinking water fountains that exceeded legal limits. Officials pointed the finger at the outdated pipes and fountain fixtures which the cash-strapped system can’t afford to fix. Michigan State law prevents the Detroit School system from borrowing money to make repairs.

Detroit joins many other school systems found to have high rates of lead in drinking fountains and taps. Schools in New York City, Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California have experienced significant lead problems, but many more instances likely remain unreported as lead testing in public schools is completely voluntary, as is the replacement of outdated equipment.  Eight states report no data for lead testing (Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky) while the remaining 42 states all report some lead violations.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Lead is the most prevalent toxicant in U.S. School Drinking Water.” Of additional concern is that lead tainted water isn’t used just for drinking and washing. It’s often used for cooking school lunches — where it can wind up in foods like pasta — or making infant formula, posing a particular risk to babies because they consume so much water compared to their size” (USA today).

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