Focus on Florida: The Legislature
In today’s schools, there are several groups of people who have the job of making sure students are safe, happy, and learning efficiently. In fact, besides teachers, 50% of the public school workforce consists of people like nurses, guidance counselors, and speech therapists. And while these people do a great job of taking care of students, it sometimes takes someone outside of the school system to make a necessary change. This is why State Senator Lauren Book proposed a bill to help make drinking water safer for children in Florida schools.
Book’s proposed bill aims to protect students from lead-laced water. Lead has already caused health concerns and issues in some school districts, prompting them to either shut off water flow or increase testing policies.
The new bill, Senate Bill 66, will require all schools in Florida that were built before 1986 to test and filter their drinking water. The schools will also have to track the water sources where students can safely consume water with the installation of barcodes.
Florida is one of the many states that does not require schools to test for metal toxins or other contaminants. And most schools do not have the funding or resources to begin testing on their own. According to a recent study, only two Florida school districts have current plans to start district-wide lead testing and only 19 schools have their water tested for lead every one to three years.
Sarasota County Schools began testing for lead for the first time last month after neighboring school districts found levels of lead that surpasses the EPA’s federal standard. While the test results have not been shared, the school did say they would look into filters if needed.
Unfortunately, lead in drinking water is not uncommon, especially for the 15 million households in the U.S. who get their drinking water from private wells. Lead consumption can lead to dire health consequences, especially in children. Dr. Ashfaq Fatmi notes that lead can damage the brain, which can lead to delayed development, difficulty focusing, and can even possibly result in anemia.
Dr. Fatmi explains, “Symptoms appear very late when the level goes up to a toxic level, so we cannot wait until then because the damage will be irreversible.”
This is one of the many reasons Senator Brook is proposing this bill. Identifying bad and toxic water before it causes damage is essential. And with how inadequate current testing policies are, a state-wide bill has been deemed necessary.