Persistent exposure to lead, we now know, damages kids’ brains. But most school districts, even after America woke up to the perils of Flint’s dangerous water five years ago, are still not inspecting their fountains and faucets for toxic lead levels. What’s up? Wouldn’t this be an issue that could unite politicians across the aisle to decisively act? But like many public policy issues, jousting forces are at work, including public officials’ proclivity to “pass the buck” and opt for silence rather than transparency, and the persistent underfunding of our public schools.
Lead used to be the material of choice for plumbing, both malleable enough to bend and sufficiently hard to resist flaking and crumbling over time. (Think of the ancient Romans.) Congress, in 1986, reacting to indisputable scientific evidence, banned the use of lead pipes in an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act. But—and this is particularly relevant for older, poor and minority neighborhoods with aging school buildings—the law did not compel schools to replace existing lead pipes. Admittedly, in 1988, Congress moved to require states to develop plans to eliminate lead in schools and daycare centers. But eight years later, a federal appeals court struck down the law arguing that it violated the Tenth Amendment. Now, the federal EPA is only responsible for ensuring that public water systems are lead-free before the water reaches a school’s pipes.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly