The water supply at a handful of schools in two elementary school districts in Illinois had too much metal in it to be considered safe for students and staff to drink, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Testing on water fixtures in schools in Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and River Forest School District 90, in Chicago’s near-west suburbs, showed that people who drank the water were being exposed to levels of lead and copper at a few schools that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers unsafe for drinking water.
“In children, low levels of exposure [to lead] have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells,” the EPA says on its website.
Lead in the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and other cities, including Newark, New Jersey, resulted from a disaster of modern governance earlier this year. In a report just released, an internal watchdog for the EPA concluded that the agency should have acted more swiftly to warn residents of Flint that their water was contaminated with lead, the New York Times reported.
Copper is slightly less problematic, since the human body has a natural mechanism for maintaining the proper level of copper. Children under 1 haven’t developed this mechanism, though, and people with certain diseases can have problems maintaining the proper balance. Also, too much copper can cause negative health effects: vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. It is also associated, in correlative studies, with liver damage and kidney disease.
Repairs and retesting are underway, according to District 90’s director of finance and facilities. “The fixtures will not be returned to service until the results show that they are below acceptable levels,” he was quoted as saying.
District 97, according to the article, is still waiting for some secondary test results to come back but has taken the water fixtures out of service in the meantime.