Update on Water Testing Performed in School District U-46
In the past few years, health experts and others have raised awareness about lead levels in water, leading to a call for testing water for lead in schools and municipalities. In January 2017, Public Act 099-0922 was passed, requiring that before the end of 2017, Illinois school districts complete water testing in all sites built before Jan. 1, 1987. In U-46, 37 buildings met that criteria and were tested.
A second phase of the law required testing in all buildings built between Jan. 2, 1987 and Jan. 1, 2000 to be complete before the end of 2018. U-46 earlier this year conducted testing in 14 sites meeting the phase two criteria. Additionally, U-46 re-tested certain fixtures at 17 sites where last year’s samples were above the state thresholds.
The Illinois law only applies to buildings where pre-K through fifth grade students attend school. Therefore, District high schools that house preschool programs were tested.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets what’s called an “action level” for lead in water at 15 parts per billion (ppb), however, the Illinois law establishes more stringent guidelines, requiring districts to take action and notify parents if lead is found in water when levels are at or above 5 ppb. Please note that neither the 15 ppb, nor the state’s threshold, is a health-based standard. Both the EPA and state levels were set to trigger systems to take action and mitigate the levels of lead but are not accompanied by any requirements regarding medical tests or healthcare.
School District U-46 contracted with Carnow, Conibear, an environmental health company that collected water samples between May 21 and May 23, 2018 from the 14 sites built between 1987 and 2000, and select fixtures at 17 sites first tested in 2017 .
A summary of the results, divided by site, can be found here.
The District will follow, and in many cases, go above and beyond the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidelines to address the results.
According to the U.S. EPA, washing hands, and even bathing or showering, should be safe for children and adults, even if the water contains lead over the U.S. EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.
Additionally, during the past few years, even prior to testing our water quality, the District proactively set out to install water bottle filtration stations or retrofit filters across the District to deliver fresh water to students and faculty and reduce the amount of plastic bottle waste going into landfills.
Notification to Families
School District U-46 sent letters via our mass notification system on Oct. 5, 2018 to parents with children at sites where samples exceeded 5 ppb. Additionally, the District’s website offers the results for each school tested in phase two, as well as frequently asked questions and links to federal resources.
Please be assured we will take all action necessary to protect student health and we will continue to update our staff, families, and community as new information becomes available.
The question to seek medical tests is a parental decision. Medical experts note that results found today may not reflect lead levels in the past. Additionally, any past elevation could be due to a number of sources including water, but also paint from older homes, lead in soil, hobbies, parental occupation, spices, jewelry, cosmetics, toys, etc.
Dr. Jennifer A. Lowry is a pediatrician and toxicologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and also serves as professor of pediatrics for University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
“Children under the age of 6 (and more importantly, under the age of 3) years are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead due to the immature neurologic system and the adverse impacts it has on development,” said Dr. Lowry, who also serves as the chair to the Council on Environmental Health for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Lead in water can be most damaging when children drink a high amount of water, such as bottle-fed infants. As children age, the amount of water consumed decreases largely due to substitution of other liquids. Thus, in a school setting for children 5 and over, the amount of water ingested is variable, but not as significant as when they were younger.”
More resources are provided at the end of this page and include this public health statement as well as the following statement from the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH): While any source of lead exposure to children is concerning, the majority of child lead poisoning is attributed to lead paint and lead in soil. Even so, IDPH is addressing water as a source of lead in schools by requiring Illinois' school districts to test for lead in water and report findings to parents and guardians. IDPH has established a low threshold for reporting to allow parents to be informed about risks their children may be exposed to at school. Risk will vary however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. A blood test is the only way to find out if your child has a high lead level. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms. Your child's health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
“What parents should take from this is that their child may have had an elevated blood lead level in the past, but what happens going forward is most important,” Dr. Lowry said. “Engaging children in academics and interests, good nutrition, and optimizing resources can help overcome many adverse events, including lead exposures.”
If you have concerns or questions, please use Let's Talk!, the District's new customer service tool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lead is a naturally occurring element in our environment. It can be found in the air, soil, the water, and inside buildings. The potential for lead contamination in the water supply is greater in buildings built before 1987, prior to the 1986 reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The District started sampling drinking water in May 2017 as a result of an Illinois law which required school districts to complete water testing by the end of 2017 in buildings built before January 1, 1987. Phase 2 of the law requires schools which were constructed between January 2, 1987 and January 1, 2000 to have testing completed by December 31, 2018. Additionally, in 2018 the District re-tested certain fixtures that were above threshold numbers set by the state when first tested in 2017.
Staff with Carnow, Conibear were required by law, at minimum, to collect a first-draw 250 milliliter sample of water, let the water flow or flush for 30 seconds, and collect a second-draw 250 milliliter sample from each source.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency set an action level for lead in public drinking water or sinks at 15 parts per billion (ppb) and greater but does not establish related health standards. The impact of lead varies, depending on several factors, including age (children under age six are generally more at risk) and the amount of consumption.
According to the United States EPA, washing hands or showering should be safe for children and adults, even if water contains more than 15 ppb. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.
Seven municipalities provide water to our District sites, including:
City of Elgin
Village of South Elgin
Village of Bartlett
Village of Streamwood
Village of Hanover Park
Village of Carol Stream
Village of Hoffman Estates
Where can I get more info on where the sites that were tested are located within my child’s schools?
The results can be found in the Water Testing Results section here.
The test sample results are a snapshot in time; taken once as a “first draw” upon opening the faucet or turning on the fountain and then again after running for 30 seconds during the testing days in May. The decision to seek further analysis or do any medical tests is a parental one that can be made in consultation with a family doctor.
The decision to do any medical tests is a parental one that can be made in consultation with a family doctor. The Illinois Department of Public Health offered the following statement: While any source of lead exposure to children is concerning, the majority of child lead poisoning is attributed to lead paint and lead in soil. Even so, IDPH is addressing water as a source of lead in schools by requiring Illinois' school districts to test for lead in water and report findings to parents and guardians. IDPH has established a low threshold for reporting to allow parents to be informed about risks their children may be exposed to at school. Risk will vary however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. A blood test is the only way to find out if your child has a high lead level. Most children with high levels of lead in their blood have no symptoms. Your child's healthcare provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
El Distrito comenzó a tomar muestras del agua potable en mayo de 2017 como resultado de una ley de Illinois que requería que todos los distritos escolares completaran las pruebas del agua potable para finales de 2017, en las escuelas construidas antes del 1º de enero de 1987. La 2º fase de la ley requiere que las escuelas que fueron construidas entre el 2 de enero de 1987 y el 1º de enero de 2000, terminen las pruebas antes del 31 de diciembre de 2018. Adicionalmente, durante el año 2018 el Distrito tomó pruebas nuevamente de algunos accesorios de plomería que se encontraban por encima del umbral de los números establecidos por el estado cuando se hicieron las pruebas iniciales en 2017.
La Agencia de Protección del Medio Ambiente de los Estados Unidos estableció un nivel de acción para el plomo encontrado en el agua potable que es de 15 partes por mil millones (ppb, por sus siglas en inglés) o más, pero no establece los requisitos de salud relacionados. El efecto del plomo varea, dependiendo de varios factores, incluyendo la edad (los niños menores de seis año es de edad generalmente tienen mayor riesgo) y la cantidad de consumo.
De acuerdo a United States EPA, los niños o adultos estarán bien si se lavan las manos o se bañan en el agua, aun si el agua contiene más de 15 ppb. La piel humana no absorbe el plomo en el agua.
Siete municipalidades le proveen el agua a nuestro Distrito pero las escuelas que participaron en la primera fase recibieron el agua de una de las cinco municipalidades locales:
Ciudad de Elgin
Pueblo de South Elgin
Pueblo de Bartlett
Pueblo de Streamwood
Pueblo de Hanover Park
Pueblo de Carol Stream
Pueblo de Hoffman Estates
La decisión de realizar exámenes médico es de los padres y puede hacerse consultando a su médico familiar.