Get the Lead Out: Pennsylvania Receives “F” for Lead Safety in Schools


    The state of Pennsylvania has received a failing grade for its lack of efforts to protect students from lead poisoning. According to a recent study by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, the state received an “F” due to inadequate laws and policies regulating lead in Pennsylvania. The study’s report is titled “Get the Lead Out.”

    The state does not have a law stating what would be an acceptable amount of lead to have in drinking water. Although experts say there is no safe amount of lead exposure, the EPA has issued guidelines about acceptable lead levels. At the state level, legislators can issue their own regulations for local schools.

    Currently, Pennsylvania does not have a lead-removal plan in place either, according to a Penn Environment press release.

    “Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Pennsylvania is failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” Stephanie Wein, the report’s contact person, said in the press release. “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”

    Lead in Pennsylvania water is hardly a new problem. Penn Live reports that a 2014 Department of Health study tested lead levels in children around the state. The study found that children living in 19 communities tested positive at levels higher than children in Flint, Michigan.

    In Philadelphia, a recent test of 40 schools revealed that 14% of children showed lead levels exceeding 15 parts per million, Penn Live reports. This is a concerning number, as is any level of lead.

    To address this problem, state Democrats plan to re-introduce bills that address this problem. Senator Vincent Hughes, of Philadelphia, would also like to gain support for a $500 million fund that could be used to aid in lead removal in schools and daycare centers.

    For residents and landlords, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has a guide on their website for lead testing and removal within the home. The department provides information on how to monitor lead and other toxins such as mold.

    Unfortunately, when lead is discovered inside the home, homeowners must often spend large amounts of money on expensive renovations to remove lead paint or contaminated pipes. Among homeowners who plan to remodel their homes, 60% plan to remodel their master bathroom; however, few people save money or plan for lead-related renovations, which may not be covered by insurance.

    Residents concerned about lead in the home are advised to work with a certified inspector to investigate the presence of lead paint or pipes. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania homes likely still contain lead pipes.

    Indoor plumbing has been around since at least 2500 B.C., and unfortunately, builders used lead pipes for much of that time. Pennsylvania didn’t ban lead pipes until 1969, and in Allegheny County alone, 71% of homes (more than 420,000) were built before lead pipes were banned.

    “Lead is highly toxic and damaging to our children and there is no safe level of lead in our drinking water,” said Dr. Kelly Kuhn, Chair and Associate Professor of Nursing at Millersville University. “As a nurse I urge the Commonwealth to implement the recommendations of this report and to be proactive in preventing more lead contamination to ensure we can protect the health of Pennsylvania children.”