Letter to the editor: Vermont children need protection from lead poisoning

Vermont carries the toxic legacy of lead’s use in plumbing infrastructure. A potent neurotoxin, lead can cause serious and irreversible cognitive and developmental deficits that are especially pronounced for children. As a parent, this worries me. As a chemist, I test school drinking water for lead. In Addison County, I found that ~50 percent of all drinking water outlets district-wide exceed the 1 part-per-billion (ppb) safety level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and by Vermont’s Department of Health. Indeed, a recent assessment earned Vermont an F for its policies regarding lead in school drinking water.
Lawmakers are now considering S.40, a bill that would require and help fund the testing and remediation of lead in drinking water in schools. Critical details of the bill will determine which of Vermont’s children are protected from lead exposure and to what degree, but even the most stringent circulated version of S.40 would only earn a C grade.
I urge lawmakers to pass a stronger S.40 by requiring water in schools and childcare facilities to be tested regularly, to accept a health-protective 1-ppb action level for lead, and to provide funding that protects the health of all Vermont children. Higher action levels will only promote existing health inequities across Vermont, as only resource-rich schools will have the means to deliver safe water without state assistance.
The established harms of children’s exposure to lead are irreversible and alarming. They are also preventable. I urge Vermont’s lawmakers to do right by our kids and pass a strengthened S.40.
Molly Robinson

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