Feb 20, 2017

Arizona Tests for Lead in 7,000 School Buildings

State proactively scrutinizes water quality in public buildings

arizona, lead, schools, testing, environment

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) announced the agency was coordinating with multiple state and local agencies, public water systems, and public schools to proactively conduct a statewide screening program for the presence of lead in the drinking water of schools. ADEQ is funding this six-month fast-track screening program in an effort to collect and test 14,000 drinking water samples from 7,000 school buildings across Arizona.

Arizona is just one of many states that have recently begun to scrutinize the drinking water at their schools and other public buildings. The focus is likely the result of numerous media reports that have found elevated levels of lead from water sources in locations nationwide. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, EPA estimates that 20% or more of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40% to 60% of their exposure to lead from drinking water.”

Lead was sometimes used in the past in household plumbing materials or in water service lines to bring water from the main to homes and buildings. A prohibition on lead in plumbing materials has been in effect since 1986. The lead ban states that only “lead-free” pipe, solder or flux may be used in the installation or repair of public water systems or any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, which is connected to a public water system. However, even “lead-free” plumbing may contain traces of lead.

“Lead is not normally found in source water, rather it ends up in tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials, and this can be an issue in many homes, schools and other buildings,” said Derrick A. Denis, vice president of Indoor Environmental Quality at Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “Buildings and homes constructed before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. The EPA reports that the most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures, which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.”

The environmental and building science professionals at CSC provide lead testing and consulting services to identify and mitigate exposure risks from water, indoor environments and other locations where the heavy metal may present. They have also sponsored an educational video about lead in drinking water that can be seen at http://youtu.be/2kvtAcpw1MY.