Maryland

Montgomery County Could Tighten Restrictions on Lead in School Drinking Water

Montgomery County is considering legislation that county leaders and health officials say would better protect students from excessive levels of lead in their school drinking water.

Maryland requires that lead levels in water at public schools cannot rise above 20 parts per billion.

Montgomery County Public Schools said it tested 13,570 water fountains and outlets last June and found that 249 of them had levels above the state requirement. Of those, 159 outlets were accessible to students.

"The danger of lead is it can effect the cognitive and bone development in children. It can lead to anemia, it can lead to behavioral problems, increased hyperactivity," said Mary Anderson, with the Montgomery County Health and Human Services

The school system said it immediately took those fountains and outlets out of service, fixed them and retested them.

Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker introduced legislation that would restrict lead levels at public schools further from 20 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion.

"We send kids to school to develop their brains and not to damage them. Lead does permanent, irreversible damage to kids' brains," Hucker said.

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A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

The council is then expected to vote on the measure in late March.

If the bill passes, the county may also consider imposing stricter lead standards on water fountains and sinks at public libraries, child care centers, playgrounds and recreation centers.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers up to 20 parts per billion as acceptable. However, the Centers for Disease Control says on its website that "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified."

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