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In Ohio’s Lead-Free Drinking Water Struggle, Schools Are Excluded!


In Ohio, the fight against lead exposure has taken on a new urgency, but a critical gap remains in the state’s approach. While significant efforts are underway to address lead contamination in homes, shelters, and daycares, the issue of lead in drinking water within K-12 schools has been notably overlooked.

Governor Mike DeWine’s recent announcement of allocating $84 million to the Lead Safe Ohio project highlights the state’s commitment to reducing lead exposure. Franklin County is set to receive over $5 million of this funding, specifically targeting older homes, shelters, and daycares. These initiatives are crucial in addressing lead contamination in environments where children spend a significant amount of their time.

However, this financial injection does not extend to K-12 schools. Environment Ohio and Environment America Clean Water Director John Rumpler emphasizes the severity of this oversight, pointing out that Ohio is lagging in protecting children from lead exposure in school drinking water.

The state’s lack of regulatory requirements or specific laws addressing this issue has led to a failing grade from the Environment America organization. Rumpler suggests a practical solution: replacing old fountains with modern water stations equipped with lead-certified filters.

In Ohio's Lead-Free Drinking Water Struggle, Schools Are Excluded!

However, current grant programs do not cover such upgrades in schools, leaving a critical gap in safeguarding children’s health. The state’s efforts, while commendable in certain areas, fall short of addressing the complexities of lead exposure. The Lead Safe Ohio program’s focus on infrastructure improvements like waterline, window, and door replacements, and thorough lead cleaning, showcases a comprehensive approach to tackling lead issues.

However, the absence of initiatives targeting school drinking water remains a glaring issue. Dr. Kennedy Ovenseri of Riverside Methodist Hospital highlights the heightened risk of lead poisoning in children from higher-risk zip codes, typically characterized by older housing. Ohio Department of Health data from 2022 reveals alarming figures, with over 150,000 children under six tested for lead levels.

The results showed that more than 750 children had lead levels above 10 µg/dL, and nearly 3,000 exceeded 5 µg/dL. The long-term impacts of lead exposure, such as reduced IQ and severe health complications, underscore the urgency of addressing this issue in all environments where children are present, including schools.

In Ohio's Lead-Free Drinking Water Struggle, Schools Are Excluded!

In conclusion, while Ohio’s initiatives against lead exposure represent significant steps forward, the exclusion of K-12 schools from these efforts is a critical oversight. Addressing lead in school drinking water is essential to ensure the comprehensive protection of children’s health across the state. The need for focused action in this area is not just a matter of regulatory compliance, but a fundamental aspect of public health and safety.

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