New legislation requires select schools, daycares to test water for lead

Certain schools and daycares in Illinois will now be responsible for testing their water for lead.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Monday a bill that will require schools built before 2000 — with students up to fifth grade — to test their water for lead. It also makes lead testing a requirement for daycare centers to get their licenses renewed.

Schools built before 1987, the year after a nationwide ban took effect on lead pipes in plumbing, will need to be tested before the end of 2017. Schools built between then and 2000 will have until the end of 2018.

Rauner said the bill, filed shortly after the Flint water crisis, will change the system to better protect the children of Illinois.

“We’re holding our schools and our daycare centers accountable for lead testing, and we’re making sure it actually gets paid for so it actually happens,” he said.

The bill allows schools to pay for the testing using existing funds dedicated to what Rauner called “life safety and tort funds,” which schools weren’t previously able to tap.

“Prior to this bill, it would have been illegal to use those funds for this issue, but we changed that to make these funds available,” he said.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, says monitoring in schools was step one to combating lead exposure since kids are more vulnerable to poisoning.

“It’s in the brain development of youth when we find it’s particularly problematic to have lead in the water,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead poisoning causes reduced intelligence and behavioral problems. It can cause permanent damage to the brain and many other organs, as well. If a woman is exposed to lead paint or dust while pregnant, the fetus can exhibit abnormalities. Studies have also shown that lead poisoning is more common in high-poverty, minority areas.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, says they owe it to the children of Illinois to combat lead exposure.

“When we send our children to school, they trust us. They expect us to teach them, to nurture them and protect them,” she said.

“In this day and age, your health is determined more by your zip code than your doctor’s zip code,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said. “While we’ve made tremendous strides in the 20th century in reducing lead, there’s much more to be done.”

The use of lead in plumbing has been banned nationwide since 1986.

–Illinois News Network

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