New Tennessee Law Requires Schools to Test for Lead in Drinking Water Sources

Public Chapter 977 was passed in the 2018 Tennessee Legislative session. It requires school districts to implement policies to test for lead in drinking water sources in schools. The legislation can be found at this link: https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/110/pub/pc0977.pdf

Key points from the law are:

  • The legislation takes effect January 1, 2019.
  • All school districts must develop a policy to test drinking water sources in schools for lead.
  • Testing is to occur in schools constructed prior to January 1, 1998.
  • If results are greater than 15 parts per billion (ppb) but less than 20 ppb, the school shall conduct testing on an annual basis until retesting confirms the level is less than 15 ppb.
  • If results are equal to or greater than 20 parts per billion:
    • The drinking water source must be removed from service.
    • The Department of Health and other state agencies will be notified within 24 hours.
    • The school must notify parents and guardians of students within 5 business days.
    • Retesting of the lead level of the drinking water source must occur within 90 days of any corrective action.

 

Childhood lead poisoning remains a leading environmental threat to the health of children. Children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can affect their health and development. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Children can be exposed to lead from a number of sources, such as lead-based paint found in older homes and buildings, dust and soil contaminated with lead, and parents’ occupations. Lead exposure from tap water comes from the decay of plumbing or the solder that connects pipes, and the risk is higher in older homes or buildings. Water that remains in pipes overnight or when schools are not in session stays in contact with lead pipes or lead solder and could contain higher levels of lead. It is important to identify elevated levels of lead in drinking water in schools in order to reduce or prevent a child’s exposure to lead in the environment.

For more information, please visit the Tennessee Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention website at http://www.tn.gov/health/topic/MCH-lead or the Tennessee Department of Health, Healthy Homes website at https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/environmental/healthy-homes/hh/lead.html.

Tennessee Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics