School drinking water lead testing programs present opportunities for policy improvement

Oct 14, 2022

A new study from the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute found that in 2016-2018, many students in the US attended public schools that did not have a drinking water lead-testing program in place. Of the seven states in this study, only one was found to require schools to test for lead, though all seven states included some level of guidance on what to do when lead concentrations are too high. Drinking water is important for proper hydration and oral health and can serve as a substitute for sugary drinks. Unsafe drinking water can lead to a variety of negative impacts on health. Moreover, if students and families are not assured that water has been tested and found safe, they may avoid drinking it. Improving federal guidance, educating school staff, and increasing technical and financial support for more widespread testing programs can reduce students' lead exposure. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers include Angie Cradock, Jessica Barrett, Chasmine Flax, and Mary Kathryn Poole from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Laura Vollmer from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Christina Hecht with the Nutrition Policy Institute. The research was supported by Healthy Eating Research (grant 280-0799), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48DP006376), and a training grant in nutrition from the National Institutes of Health (DK 007703–22).

By Katherine Lanca
Author - Graduate Student
By Danielle L. Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Christina A Hecht
Editor - UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute Academic Coordinator
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist