Tennessee has New Lead Testing Regulations in Public School: What You Need to Know


Childhood lead poisoning is one of the leading environmental threats to the health of children. Younger children, 6-years-old and younger, are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning which can affect their health as well as their development.

Facts about lead

·         Lead exposure can harm babies before they are born

·         Children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies

·         Peeling or chipping lead-based paint can be a health hazard

·         Hand-to-mouth behavior of young children makes them more at risk

·         Lead-based paint that is in good condition is generally not a health hazard

·         Lead can be brought home from work on your clothes and shoes

·         Prior to 1978, lead was used as an additive in gasoline

·         Some imported toys or jewelry may contain lead

·         Some ethnic foods or medicines contain harmful amounts of lead

Children can be exposed to lead from a number of sources. For example, lead-based paint found in older homes and buildings, dust and soil contaminated with lead, and parents’ occupations. Lead exposure from tap water comes from the decay of plumbing or the solder that connects pipes. Water that remains in pipes overnight or when schools are not in session stays in contact with lead pipes or lead solder and could contain higher levels of lead.

How does lead impact a child’s development?

About 1 out of every 11 children between 1 and 5-years-old have harmful levels of lead in their blood. If the lead is not detected early, the child could suffer from;

·         decreased growth

·         learning problems

·         impaired hearing

·         behavior problems (such as hyperactivity)

·         nerve and/or brain damage

·         Children are more susceptible to the effects of lead, because:

·         children’s growing bodies absorb more lead

·         children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead

·         children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths

Taking Action

An investigation by a Nashville news station in 2017 found that at least one Tennessee school district tested for lead and found levels of toxic metal in its drinking water, but never told parents. Stemming from that investigation, new statewide legislation was introduced and passed that now requires school districts to implement policies to test for lead in drinking water sources in schools.

Key facts about the legislation;

·         The legislation took effect January 1, 2019.

·         All school districts must develop a policy to test drinking water sources in schools for lead.

·         Testing is to occur in schools constructed prior to January 1, 1998.

·         If results are greater than 15 parts per billion (ppb) but less than 20 ppb, the school shall conduct testing on an annual basis until retesting confirms the level is less than 15 ppb.

·         If results are equal to or greater than 20 parts per billion: the drinking water source must be removed from service. The Department of Health and other state agencies will be notified within 24 hours. The school must notify parents and guardians of students within 5 business days. Retesting of the lead level of the drinking water source must occur within 90 days of any corrective action.

For more information about lead poisoning contact your local health department or contact one of these state agencies;

State Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program:

630 Hart Lane

1st Floor, R.S. Gass Laboratory

Nashville, Tennessee 37243

Phone: (615) 532-8462

Tennessee Certified Lead Based Paint Firms, Certification Process and Lead-Based

Paint Pre-Renovation Education Rule:

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Toxic Substances Program – Lead Hazard Program Division of Solid/Hazardous Waste Management

William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower – 14th Fl

312 Rosa L. Parks Ave

Nashville, Tennessee 37243

Lead Line:  1-888-771-LEAD (5323)

Local:  (615) 532-LEAD (5323)

Additional Resources:

·         EPA drinking water: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water#getinto

·         Tennessee Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/mch-lead.html

·         Tennessee Healthy Homes:  https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/environmental/healthy-homes.html