In a recent collaborative study between Global News, The Toronto Star, the Ryerson School of Journalism and Concordia University’s Institute of Investigative Journalism, 30% of Ontario schools and daycares were found to have at least 1 water sample above Health Canada’s maximum allowable lead threshold of 5 parts per billion (ppb). Locally, the highest levels were found at Gary Allen High School with 1 sample showing over 675 ppb. Read the original report here.
Lead is neurotoxic and has been shown to affect a child’s physical and cognitive development and can affect IQ and behaviour. It competes with calcium for absorption and is stored in the brain, nervous system, teeth and bones. Children under the age of 6, pregnant and breast-feeding women are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead. While the maximum allowable threshold for lead in Canada is 5 ppb, no amount of lead has ever been proven to be safe in children. None is best.
The main source of lead in drinking water is plumbing. According to Halton Region website, homes built before 1950 may have lead service connections or lead internal plumbing. Homes built before 1990 might have brass fittings containing lead, or lead solder connecting to the copper pipes. While replacing pipes may solve the problem, there are numerous stop-gap measures parents can take to limit lead in drinking water.
- Ensure you have a source of lead-free drinking water at home and send this water to school with students. If you have an older home and are suspicious of lead in your pipes, contact Halton Region at 311 to arrange water testing. Reliable filtration options at home to remove lead from drinking water include:
-reverse osmosis or distilled water remove virtually all lead from drinking water
-activated carbon filters for your kitchen faucet such as Brita or PUR remove an estimated 99% of lead
-activated carbon filters for water pitchers such as Brita Longlast or PUR Ultimate remove 93%-96% lead
-Big Berkey countertop filters are certified to remove 96% of lead
Ensure all filters are replaced per manufacturer’s guidelines for most reliable filtration.
- Dietary calcium decreases lead burden by competing for absorption. Ensuring children are eating a balanced diet with calcium-rich foods including dairy or dairy alternatives, nuts/seeds, greens, beans/legumes, totaling 800-1000 mg calcium per day, will protect against lead absorption and toxicity. Some children may need a calcium supplement to top up their dietary intake.
Parent councils may work together with the school administration to fundraise for water purification technologies at the school. In the meantime, choose a lead-filtering water bottle for your child to keep and refill at school…one that meets NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for lead reduction (and BPA free). This includes the Sport Berkey Bottle which is certified to remove 95% of lead and Lifestraw Play with Lead Reduction Filter .