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A new law decreases the amount of lead allowed in N.H schools’ water

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A new law signed by Governor Sununu has changed the allowable quantity of lead in water at schools and licensed childcare facilities. The minimum standard changed from 15 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion to prevent any level of poisoning.

Lead can be highly toxic; it can cause damage to the brain and nervous system. Usually, in the state, children ingest this metal from chipping paint in old houses, but New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services officials say water can be another unsafe way to consume it.

In a press release, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services said facilities that have not previously tested their water for lead have 30 days to do so, and they must be tested three times before June 30, 2024.

The facilities that test over five parts per billion have 90 days to submit a remediation plan to the department. According to Lea Anne Atwell, who manages the department’s Lead in Schools and Child Care Facilities program, replacing fixtures with something newer that is lead-free is often enough to get the lead out of the water.

“But sometimes there is more extensive work that needs to be done, like if they have lead solder in the plumbing,” said Atwell. She recommends schools contact the program to find the best solution.

The department’s latest count sampled 627 schools and 751 child care programs, but this is the time of the year when facilities open and close, so the department says those numbers will change slightly.

Atwell points out that all the locations where kids drink, like fountains or sinks where they fill up water bottles, must be inspected because lead levels can change from faucet to faucet. She also recommends checking any source of water used in food preparation.

“I think it's important to continue to reduce exposure because kids’ bodies can absorb lead more rapidly. We should care for their developing brains,” Atwell said.

Schools and child care facilities can find more resources here.

Updated: July 27, 2022 at 11:46 AM EDT
This article has been updated to include information about the number of schools and child care facilities that have been sampled by the Department of Environmental Services.
Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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