A state House bill would require preschools and day care centers to test for lead in drinking water and take action if lead levels are too high. Kids with lead poisoning can have trouble learning, behavioral issues, and poor kidney function. It’s especially harmful to children under the age of 6.
The chair of the House Environmental Affairs Committee says he won’t hear the bill because the issue of lead in drinking water is being addressed at the federal level.
But last year, the Environmental Protection Agency kept the level at which utilities had to take action the same — at 15 parts per billion. The federal Food and Drug Administration doesn’t even allow bottled water to have more than five parts per billion of lead.
Purdue University professor Andrew Whelton said that EPA action level was never meant for buildings like homes and schools — and is much too high to protect the public’s health.
“I think everybody wants to protect children, but my main concern is that the underlying information being used to make policy decisions, actually is incorrect," he said.
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The bill’s author, Rep. Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond), said lead damage is irreversible — which is why protective legislation can't wait.
“We need to have some concrete bill in place to protect these babies," she said.
Jackson said language regarding preschools and day cares was stricken from her bill last year addressing lead testing in schools, which is why she proposed a separate bill.
Whelton said the action level set in the House bill is also too high. Jackson said she plans to lower it in the bill, but can’t amend the language in the bill if it doesn’t get a hearing. She hopes Hoosiers will contact their legislators to ensure it does.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.