The Clean Water for Georgia Kids Program

The Clean Water for Georgia Kids program is designed to eliminate childhood exposure to lead in drinking and cooking water at Georgia schools. Currently, we are enrolling public schools in Georgia.

Importance

Early childhood exposure to lead can cause irreversible cognitive decline and behavioral difficulties at any level of exposure. While there is a ban on lead in paint and gasoline, there is still an allowable amount of lead in piping and plumbing used for drinking and cooking water. Lead can sometimes leach into the water from corroded pipes between the utility and the faucet. Older buildings and piping or water fountains built before 1988 also may have piping and plumbing comprised of 100% lead. Children in school may unknowingly be exposed to lead from drinking and cooking water.

It is common that the lead level detected in drinking water varies from tap to tap, which is why it is important to test every tap used for cooking or drinking. Sometimes a school may find lead in one tap, but not others - this indicates that there may be lead in some of the fixtures themselves (e.g., faucets or fountains) or the solder used in the plumbing. If lead is detected in all samples, there may also be elevated lead composition in the building’s main plumbing pipes, especially if the building was constructed before 1988. The level of lead in each sample also depends on when the samples were collected and can vary throughout the year based on water conditions, pipe deterioration, and use.

This does not mean that we expect to find high levels of lead in your school’s drinking water. Our goal is to ensure that every tap used for drinking and cooking water is safe for children. This program is designed to find and fix problem taps so that children are drinking lead-free water while they are at school.

Why Citizen Science?

Citizen science uses public participation to collect scientific data and empower citizens to work with scientists to make progress on a large scientific issue. Using a community-based approach to testing and fixing lead in drinking water ensures that school administrators, staff, and parents understand the problem and can help take collective action to make improvements now and in the future. School administrators will become citizen scientists in this program and become empowered to help ensure that their schools are providing lead-free water for children. The program is designed to:

  1. TRAIN school administrators as citizen scientists to collect and ship water samples,
  2. TEST all drinking and cooking taps at Georgia schools,
  3. TAKE ACTION to fix problems identified with recommendations based on center-specific results, and
  4. COMMUNICATE findings and solutions to staff, parents, and children.

Partnerships

The Georgia Department of Education and RTI international are here to help you make sure that the drinking water in your school is as safe and clean as possible. The state of Georgia has partnered with RTI International, with staff dedicated to protecting children’s health using state-of-the-science laboratory analytical techniques and environmental health expertise. The Clean Water for Georgia Kids program is based on an expansion of the Clean Water for Carolina Kids pilot study and program. RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition, and the flagship institution of Research Triangle Park with collaboration from the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. NC Child, North Carolina’s child advocacy group, has also helped to create how-to videos with RTI staff to make it easier than ever to become a citizen scientist and protect children from lead in water. The most important part of this program is YOU – the school administrator responsible for your school’s children. With your support, we can find and remove lead from drinking and cooking water in your school.

Background on the 2017 Clean Water for Carolina Kids Pilot Study

RTI International completed a pilot study in 2017 to identify the occurrence of lead in licensed child care centers and elementary schools with pre-kindergarten Head Start programs in four Piedmont counties of North Carolina (Guilford, Orange, Durham, and Wake). Overall, 106 centers enrolled and 86 centers returned the mail-in test kits. With lead detected in 97% of child care centers in at least one tap, and above 15 ppb in 16% of centers, the study demonstrated the importance of testing for lead at the tap. Furthermore, the study showed that lead in water can be identified and addressed with simple, affordable solutions by training and empowering center administrators as citizen scientists.