Bottled Water vs. Drinking Fountains

Just this week, the school my children attend got a $500 grant from an environmental agency. The school decided to buy all the students metal water bottles so they could bring water from home and consume fewer bottles of water at school, thereby saving plastic. My immediate reaction was "What's wrong with the drinking fountain?" National Geographic asks that question as well: Which is better for children, bottled water or tap water? The production of bottled water uses lots of resources and the bottles just go to landfills.
But switching to tap water could be a bad idea in some schools where the risk of lead contamination from old pipes—known to affect physical and mental development—is high, particularly in large urban areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

For instance in September 2009, the Associated Press published a nationwide investigation showing that the drinking water in schools in 27 states is contaminated with lead and other toxic substances from lead-soldered pipes generally installed before 1985.

Some school don't test the water because of the high cost of replacing pipes. They find it more cost-effective to serve bottled water, or even soft drinks to children. Link

(image credit: Flickr user Isobel T)

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Douglas2 - that's true in hard water areas; the few lead pipes I've seen have been like that, with the exception of one from a very soft water area which was naked lead inside. Some areas have quite acid water which will carry lead away in dangerous amounts.
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Before I moved to our current home, we never drink bottled water and thought that it was an extravagant waste. Not anymore: my city's tap water tastes so bad and is so hard that we drink bottled water every day.
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Having cut out old pipes I was quite convinced that the inevitable scale after even a few years would completely block any possible contact between the lead and the water. And in the USA the lead has been phased out of solder for plumbing for more than that few years. But researchers have been making an effort in Washington DC and other places to do actual PPM lead level measurements, and a water-fountain that measures fine this week can be way over the limit next week. Globs of solder can finally break off into the flow, becoming eroded as they lodge in a bend or aerator, putting the lead way over safe limits.
The problem is not the water being supplied, but contamination from old pipework on the premises of the home, apartment, or school.
For a school in an older building, complete replacement of the plumbing from the water-main would fix the problem, or they can do consistent lead testing of all drinking water fountains. One is really disruptive and expensive, the other merely very expensive. Or they can install point-of-use filters, but these need expensive replacement of the filter media at regular intervals. Priced water filters for your fridge lately? Mine should have been replaced a year ago.
On the other hand, they can pull out the fountains and put a office water cooler in the position of each one. In most cases this is what is meant in the news report about a school using bottled water. Not individual bottles of Evian, but bulk 20-Liter bottles with a dispenser. But they can't use little paper cups like every office, because every elementary student knows that that makes Gaia cry.
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To say that any lead contamination is toxic is just silly.

Without publishing quantitative analysis of the contaminate there is insufficient information to judge.
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Lack of lead causes autism? Do we have less people with mental defects since 1985? It certainly doesn't seem that way... Why isn't our health improving from all these new things? Yet we have obesity, autism, diabetes, asthma, etc..? Bring back smallpox, it seems safer. At least it killed off the whiners.
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