For Immediate Release: September 20, 2022
Macie Rebel-Kidwell | Department for Children and Families
802-760-7237 | [email protected]
Vermont Gets the Lead Out of Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities
Schools and child care providers tested & fixed thousands of taps to reduce lead in drinking water
BURLINGTON, VT – State officials are calling a program to reduce lead in school and child care drinking water a success, following a new report that found 98% of Vermont schools and child cares have completed testing for lead in their drinking water and have taken any needed steps to keep water safe. A law passed in 2019 requires all Vermont schools and child care facilities to test their drinking and cooking water for lead.
“Each year hundreds of Vermont kids are poisoned by lead. This program shows how we can work together as a state to reduce lead exposure and keep our children healthier,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “Parents and caregivers can take comfort in knowing that the water their kids are consuming at their school and child care is now safer.”
Lead is a highly toxic metal. There is no safe level of lead in the body, and exposure to it can slow children’s growth, impair their development and learning, and cause behavior problems.
Because lead can leach into drinking water from older plumbing and fixtures, Vermont requires schools and child care facilities to test all the taps and take corrective action if lead levels were found at or above the state action level of 4 ppb (parts per billion), and to repeat the testing every three years. From June 2019 through December 2021, a total of over 15,000 taps used for drinking and cooking were tested.
According to the report, one out of every five drinking water taps tested had elevated levels of lead. Lead was more frequently found in the water fixture rather than the plumbing, which made remediation both easier and less expensive. For 90% of the fixtures that needed to be replaced, the costs were less than $500. The state provided funding to reimburse schools and child cares for remediation costs.
The report identified 75% of schools and 14% of non-school based child care facilities as having at least one tap with a result at or above the action level. The testing also revealed that bottle fillers had the lowest lead levels, and sinks – the most common tap tested – had among the highest lead levels. All results are posted online at leadresults.vermont.gov.
"This is a great example of government being able to deliver tangible results that improve the public health of our most vulnerable populations," said Commissioner John Beling of the Department of Environmental Conservation. "I am grateful for our partnership with the Health Department and our ability to reduce lead exposures."
Commissioner Sean Brown of the Agency of Human Services' Child Development Division agrees that initiatives such as this can have a significant impact on children's health. "We take very seriously our responsibility to protect and promote the health and safety of children in early care and education programs," said Brown. "Collaborative efforts like this help ensure that children in Vermont have positive, safe learning environments in which they can grown and develop."
See the Vermont Lead in School and Child Care Drinking Water Progress Summary. The summary and full report can also be found at: healthvermont.gov/leadtest-response
Learn more about preventing lead poisoning, visit healthvermont.gov/lead.
Find out how to test your home drinking water for lead: healthvermont.gov/water/lead.
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