Daily Video

April 20, 2016

Lead in school water is nationwide issue


NewsHour Extra would like to extend a big thanks to Ms. Misar’s journalism class at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, for contributing to today’s Daily News Story.

 Essential question

What is the United States doing to protect children from lead poisoning?

Safe drinking water is often taken for granted in the United States, but some schools around the country find themselves struggling to protect students from toxic lead.

Most cases of lead exposure come from drinking water that has traveled through old lead pipes. Many buildings in the U.S., including schools, still have lead pipes, and the cost of replacing them can be millions of dollars.

Lead poisoning is especially dangerous for children and can cause side effects ranging from lowered I.Q. and attention spans to behavior disorders. After the major story of high lead levels in the water supply of Flint, Michigan broke late last year, lead contamination has received more attention.

Elementary schools in places like Ithaca, New York, Newark, New Jersey and Baltimore, Maryland have very recently detected dangerous levels of lead.

At Caroline Elementary in Ithaca, NY, parents received a letter notifying them that lead levels had been high for months. Baltimore City Public Schools struggled with lead levels for years before finally turning off all the drinking fountains and cafeteria sinks and switching to bottled water for students.

Key terms

neurotoxin — a toxic substance that affects the central nervous system and the brain

lead — a chemical element that can cause brain damage to people who consume it

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What are some problems that can affect the safety of the water we drink?
  2. What is lead and why is it dangerous?
  3. Who is responsible for ensuring the safety of the water we drink?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. To what degree does government bureaucracy play a hand in the continuation of elevated lead levels in the public water supply?
  2. Should school districts be held accountable for allowing lead into their water and/or subsequently covering it up? Why or why not?
  3. Would you spend money on replacing lead pipes or hiring more teachers? Explain.
  4. How would you compare and contrast the lead contamination problem with other current problems that affect schools?
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