Lead Concentrations in US School Drinking Water: Testing Programs, Prevalence, and Policy Opportunities, 2016‒2018

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Objectives. To detail baseline drinking water sample lead concentrations and features of US state-level programs and policies to test school drinking water for lead in 7 states’ operating programs between 2016 and 2018.

Methods. We coded program and policy documents using structured content analysis protocols and analyzed state-provided data on lead concentration in drinking water samples collected in public schools during initial testing phases.

Results. We analyzed data from 5688 public schools, representing 35% of eligible schools in 7 states. The number of samples per school varied. The proportion of schools identifying any sample lead concentration exceeding 5 parts per billion varied (13%–81%). Four states exceeded 20%. Other program features varied among states. Instances of lead above the state action level were identified in all states.

Conclusions. In 2018, many US public school students attended schools in states without drinking water lead-testing programs. Testing all drinking water sources may be recommended.

Public Health Implications. Initiating uniform school drinking water lead testing programs and surveillance over time could be used to reduce risk of lead exposure in drinking water. (Am J Public Health. 2022;112(S7):S679–S689. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2022.306961)

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Angie L. Cradock, ScD , Jessica L. Barrett, MPH , Mary Kathryn Poole, MPH , Chasmine N. Flax, MPH , Laura Vollmer, MPH, RD , and Christina Hecht, PhD Angie L. Cradock, Jessica L. Barrett, and Chasmine N. Flax are with the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Mary Kathryn Poole is with the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Laura Vollmer is with the Cooperative Extension, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Christina Hecht is with the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Oakland. “Lead Concentrations in US School Drinking Water: Testing Programs, Prevalence, and Policy Opportunities, 2016‒2018”, American Journal of Public Health 112, no. S7 (September 1, 2022): pp. S679-S689.

https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2022.306961

PMID: 36179297