Tuesday Febuary 19th state director Carissa Maurin gave the following testimony on behalf of Enviornment Maine in support of Senator Rebecca Millett bill LD 153 'An Act To Strengthen Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water' which would require all schools to test water used for drinking or culinary purposes for lead using water testing kits or by submitting samples of water to an approved laboratory for lead testing. Her testimony is as following:
“Good afternoon distinguished members of the Health and Human Services Committee. Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony. My name is Carissa Maurin and I am the State Director at Environment Maine. I am speaking today in support of LD 153, ‘An Act To Strengthen Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water’.
Lead is a potent neurotoxin and it affects how our children learn, grow and behave. Medical experts estimate that more than 24 million American children are at risk of losing IQ points due to lead exposure and our research finds many of these kids will be exposed to lead in their schools’ drinking water. Maine has particularly corrosive water, which can dissolve lead from plumbing systems. Our children's drinking water is at risk wherever we have faucets, fountains, or plumbing made with lead. Of the limited testing done, 26 schools and childcare centers found “high levels of lead” in the water in Maine. In all likelihood, these confirmed cases of lead in schools’ water are just the tip of the iceberg.
Of course more testing alone won’t solve the problem. Rather, LD 153 is critical legislation because it establishes a framework for the Department of Health & Human Services to begin taking the steps needed to ensure that our kids have safe drinking water at school.
Most schools have at least some lead in their pipes, plumbing, or fixtures. And where there is lead, there is risk of contamination. The only way to ensure safe drinking water for our children is to “get the lead out” of our schools and preschools. This involves proactively removing lead-bearing parts from schools’ drinking water systems — from service lines to faucets and fixtures — and installing filters certified to remove lead at every tap used for drinking or cooking.
Medical science now confirms that even low levels of lead can cause permanent damage to our children. According to the EPA,"In children, low levels of lead exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells." Lead is particularly damaging to children for several reasons. Children absorb as much as 90 percent more lead into their bodies than adults. Once ingested, lead flows from the blood to the brain, kidneys, and bones. Yet children’s organs and bones are immature and more vulnerable than adults.
Moreover, because lead flows from blood into the organs and bones within several weeks, its damage to a child’s health will not always show up in blood tests. Lead is a persistent toxin, so once absorbed, the lead remains in the body. So, a child who drinks water from a fountain at school that sporadically contains a slug of lead might not show elevated blood-lead levels a month or two later, but the harm persists in her body. For all these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that schools limit lead in drinking water to concentrations of 1 part per billion.
A 2017 report from Environment Maine graded states for their work to protect children from lead poisoning at school. Maine received an “F”. We must do better for our children. LD 153 is a critical first step to “get the lead out” of drinking water at school. Thank you for your consideration.”