From pipes and plumbing to little people: A comparison of sampling protocols for lead in school drinking water
This presentation was delivered at the 12th Annual CIPHI Saskatchewan Annual Professional and Development Seminar in Saskatoon (October 29-30, 2019) and a version of it was presented at the 85th Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) Annual Education Conference (September 8-11, 2019). Both presentations are based on an NCCEH Guidance Document titled Testing for Lead In School Drinking Water: A Summary of Sampling Protocols.
Low-level lead exposures are linked to cognitive and behavioral impacts in children. Reducing lead exposures from all potential sources, including school drinking water (DW), is an important public health action to safeguard their health. In March 2019 Health Canada (HC) updated the drinking water guideline to reduce the maximum allowable concentration (MAC) for lead from 10 μg/L (set in 1992) to 5 μg/L. This change should prompt re-evaluations of all water testing programs, including those in public places such as schools. The new HC target, while being one of the lowest for lead, are still just guidelines. Determination of if and how Canadian provinces and territories will adopt the lower levels for lead remain to be seen.
Successful school testing requires a clear understanding of how lead sampling programs are being conducted and the purpose for testing. Variations in time, date and approach to testing can significantly impact results. The NCCEH compared six lead sampling protocols for school water testing, including four from Canada and two from the United States. Key considerations that should be incorporated and challenges associated with choosing an appropriate lead sampling protocol were discussed.