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The federal appropriations bill for the 2021 fiscal year, signed into law this week, included $26.5 million to test for lead in schools and child care centers, a nod to the legacy of the Flint water crisis, which lifted the issue of lead in drinking water into the national spotlight.
The bill was signed a week after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced new requirements for water utilities to test water in elementary schools and day cares for lead.
The Flint crisis spurred a national conversation on the dangers of exposing children to lead. “It really alters the entire life-course trajectory of a child,” Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician, told Circle of Blue. Hanna-Attisha’s research helped uncover the extent of the city’s lead contamination, revealing elevated lead levels in the blood of children who ingested drinking water supplied from the Flint River.
Flint’s water is now being mended and its lead pipes are nearly all replaced. But the toxic metal still lingers elsewhere. A 2019 report from Environment America, a national network of environmental groups, showed elevated lead levels in the water systems of schools across the country.