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Philly School District to retest drinking water in schools for lead

The Philadelphia School District announced Thursday that it will retest its drinking water for lead in 40 schools.

The Philadelphia School District announced Thursday that it will retest its drinking water for lead in 40 schools.

The district selected schools in neighborhoods where children's blood levels have tested high for lead and where students attend class in old buildings or those that have not been renovated in more than two decades.

"This retesting project will allow us to add another layer of oversight and assurance to our water quality program," Fran Burns, the district's chief operating officer said.

"It is important that we reassure our students and families that the quality of our drinking water is safe and in compliance with federal and local regulations," she said.

The Philadelphia Water Department follows a federal rule that sets the "action level" - the level at which the amount of lead in drinking water is a concern that requires action - at 15 parts per billion.

But health experts and research shows that no amount of lead is safe. Lead is a toxic metal that attacks the brain and central nervous system. Even at low levels, it can cause children to have lower IQs, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia - conditions that inhibit students from doing well in school.

In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for stricter federal standards to ensure water fountains in schools do not exceed lead concentrations of more than 1 part per billion.

Under pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the district tested water in all 293 school buildings beginning in 2000. Early results showed that about 20 percent of some 12,000 water outlets in 170 schools tested had high lead levels.

As a result, the district closed some water fountains and provided bottled water.

The retesting is expected to take about four months to complete. Four schools will be tested each week.

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