When you turn on the faucet in your kitchen sink or go to take a drink from the water fountain, you expect to taste cool, refreshing water… and nothing else. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as water can be contaminated with lead.
At this time, Georgia is moving forward with a plan to test the drinking water in 800 schools and childcare facilities for lead contamination.
The State Board of Education approved hiring the Research Triangle Institute for $980,000 to perform the tests using a federal grant.
There are around 40 faucets in each school statewide. According to preliminary estimates, the tests will find concerning levels of lead in 2.5 percent of the faucets. These ones will require retesting.
Georgia will prioritize the schools that are the oldest, those that are in low-income communities and those that host the youngest children (6 and under). The individual school or district will be responsible for fixing the problem.
Testing had originally been planned to start sooner, but was delayed by the pandemic, said Georgia Department of Education spokesperson Matt Cardoza. Testing is now likely to begin in early 2021. The grant will run through 2023.
Long-term effects of lead poisoning
Lead poisoning happens over time as more and more lead builds up in your system. Children under 6 are especially prone to developing lead buildup. Even small amounts of lead can cause damage while large amounts can be fatal.
If you are a teacher or faculty member, watch out for these symptoms in your students:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica)
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
If you think you are suffering from lead contamination, these are the symptoms adults typically exhibit:
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
Workers’ compensation for lead contamination
Toxic exposures are a bit tricky when it comes to workers’ compensation since it can take weeks, months or even years for illness or injury to manifest. However, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure chemical safety in the workplace. For that reason, you are entitled to workers’ comp if you suffered those injuries.
Lead poisoning can qualify as toxic exposure or occupational disease if you can prove that the contamination happened in the workplace. If the teachers or staff from the above story can document that their exposure came from the lead in the school’s water system, they have a case for workers’ comp. The difficult part is proving it—which is where a competent and experienced lawyer comes in.