Finding and fixing lead in water at child care facilities: a pilot from EDF

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) worked with 11 child care facilities in four states (IL, MI, MS, OH) in a pilot that went in-depth on methods to test for and to remediate elevated lead levels in water in these settings. The report includes a clear description of the concerns and considerations surrounding lead exposure in child care facilities, as well as remediation techniques. Click to read the full report, “Putting children first: Tackling lead in water at child care facilities."

EDF used an action level of 3.8 ppb, consistent with their earlier work examining health-based standards for lead in drinking water. They tested over 1,500 water samples through analysis by a certified lab, including before and after remediation techniques. They also evaluated two portable testing meters.

Key Results

  • More than three out of four water samples had lead levels below 1 ppb. However, seven of 11 child care facilities had at least one drinking water fixture sample above their action level.

  • While fixture replacement was often effective, they could not consistently reduce lead levels to below their action level, likely due to an inadequate NSF International standard that allows new brass fixtures to leach up to 5 ppb of lead.

  • Flushing fixtures (such as faucets) for just five seconds reduced lead levels; flushing for 30 seconds was more even effective.

  • Cleaning the aerator at the end of the faucet is important, but may increase lead levels in certain situations. While more investigation is needed, they recommend soaking aerators in vinegar to dissolve particulate lead.

  • Water heaters may function as “lead traps” for upstream sources (i.e., a lead service line) of lead.

Key Recommendations

  • Replace lead service lines in child care facilities when found through review of historical records and visual inspection.

  • Require testing for lead in water in child care facilities for interior sources of lead.

  • Set an interim action level of 5 ppb to investigate and remediate lead sources.

  • Strengthen the NSF International 5 ppb leachability standard to reduce lead in new brass fixtures.

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