New rule would require lead testing for NC daycare water after study finds it's common

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lead, which is so detrimental to children's health and intellectual development, has been removed from the nation's gasoline and paint but not from its water.

Lead is especially harmful to children ages 6 and younger because their brains and bodies are just developing.

Exposure can cause serious intellectual, emotional, and health problems.

"The Environmental Protection Agency notes that the goal for lead exposure is zero," in children 6 and younger, Jenny Hoponick Redmon told ABC11.

Hoponick Redmon, a mother of three, is also a researcher at RTI International.

She decided to look into the issue.

A study done by her and a colleague, Dr. Keith Levine, has spurred a proposed statewide health rule that would require testing of water in the every one of the nearly 4,500 licensed daycares statewide.

"I'm a mom of three boys and when I started looking for child-care centers in North Carolina, I couldn't help but wonder about the water quality there. And in asking people, 'Oh, have you tested your water for lead?' most people think that they have. But in fact, there is no regulation to test for lead at the tap in child-care centers," Hoponick Redmon said.

So Hoponick Redmon decided to take action.

She and Levine conducted a study on daycare centers in four North Carolina counties, including Wake, Durham and Orange.

Hoponick Redmon started at her children's daycare in Chapel Hill, which is owned by Maria Dickinson.

"I was happy to participate in it to educate myself and my staff and to educate the families," Dickinson told ABC11.

She was surprised by the results but when her study was complete, Hoponick Redmon was not.

"My children's school is indicative of most schools. And most schools and child-care centers did have some level of detectable lead in at least one tap," she said.

Ninety-seven percent to be exact.

And that included centers using municipal water sources.

"Lead contamination actually happens in the distribution piping. Once it leaves the water treatment plant the distribution piping coming to your home and to your tap, that's where you find it," Hoponick Redmon explained.

So now the North Carolina Commission for Public Health has looked at the study and proposed the rule requiring all daycare centers to be tested at least once every three years.

The rule would also require the daycares to eliminate the source of the lead.

Hoponick Redmon said neither the testing nor most fixes are costly.

And the owner of the center her children attend echoed that saying, "It was so easy to go through the process. And then getting the results it was not a big deal. It was really easy to change the minor things we found."

The Commission for Public Health noted that a federal grant for nearly $1 million should cover most of the initial testing and remediation costs leaving daycare owners with little or nothing to pay out of pocket.

Comments from the public about the proposed rule are being accepted by the commission on its website through Friday.

The commission could vote on the rule as early as August 7.

If it passes and gets through a legislative rules committee it will then take effect.

Hoponick Redmon is optimistic it will pass.

"Providing kids with lead-free water is one of the easiest ways to enhance their potential for educational success and overall well-being," she said.
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