Lead level high in Montgomery school coolers

March 24, 1989, midnight | 35 years, 2 months ago

By Amy Goldstein, Washington Post staff writer

The following is a reprint of a story published in The Washington Post on March 24, 1989.

One-third of the drinking fountains in Montgomery County's public schools contain water with excessive amounts of lead, and there are 10 schools where lead levels are more than four times the federal safety standard, according to recent tests.

In response to the test results, made public yesterday, school officials said they were disconnecting 356 fountains with excessive lead, which are in 117 schools. School administrators and Montgomery health and environmental officials also are beginning a more detailed study of exactly where the lead comes from and how to reduce it.

The tests show that the water in 120 of the school system's 1,113 coolers contained more than 50 parts of lead per billion, the maximum level considered safe under the US Environmental Protection Agency standards. An additional 230 coolers had levels higher than 20 parts per billion, a stricter health guideline that the EPA has proposed.

Lead is a toxin that accumulates in the body and has been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure and kidney damage in adults and, at extreme levels, nervous system disorders and even death. Children are especially vulnerable to lead, which can stunt their physical and mental development and impair their hearing, among other things.

Yesterday, Montgomery County school and health officials, eager to forestall reactions of fear from parents, said that the findings do not mean that the health of students or school employees has been endangered.

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