Lead In Chicago's Drinking Fountains

Chicago Shut Down 445 Public Drinking Fountains

Growing concerns about the harmful contaminant have spurred some cities to perform additional testing. In Chicago, the Parks Division tested fountains finding that 445 out of 1,891 tested had levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s established “action level” standard.* Some of the fountains were found to have lead particles greater than 80 times the EPA limit.

It’s likely that Chicago is not the only city facing this problem. Lead pipes were commonly used for transporting drinking water in the late 1800’s. In recent years, the EPA has encouraged state entities to redouble their efforts to adhere to testing guidelines and to remove lead pipelines, a task involving substantial public resources. This is in response to overwhelming evidence of lead-contaminated water in places such as Flint, Michigan; which has drawn national attention to the issue.

A recent Washington Post article quoted Lynn Goldman, a former EPA regulator and current dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University as saying “This is a national problem…What this highlights to me is that it really needs to be a requirement by [the EPA] that all cities and schools test these public drinking water fountains.”

Drinking from a fountain found to have higher than advisable lead levels once is unlikely to cause any harm. However, drinking consistently from a contaminated source can result in a number of diseases according to the Washington Post article. Especially in young children who could develop permanent learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Avid park goers, summer day camp and sports participants are just a few of the groups who could be effected by lead-contaminated drinking fountains. Lugging bottled water around is not a sustainable solution. Besides the fact that you can’t simply refill your bottle on-the-go without concerns about the water source, consuming bottled water has major impacts on both the environment and your wallet.

The FDA reports that Americans consumed more than 7.5 million gallons of bottled water in 2005. Demand has increased and “Today,” the FDA continues “only carbonated soft drinks out-sell bottled water.” This high rate of consumption has had a major environmental impact; just take a look at the National Geographic’s coverage of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

With billions of tiny plastic pieces already swirling around in our oceans, an additional 275+ metric tons of plastic waste per year is simply not acceptable. But that’s the reality according to environmental scientists who calculated the waste generated by 192 coastal countries in 2010.

Besides the environmental costs, the cost of bottled water is staggering. The “Story of Stuff” creator Annie Leonard estimates that bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water. At about $0.56 per bottle (if you buy in bulk), even if you only drink one bottle per day that amounts to $1,890 per year. You can’t afford to be drinking bottled water, and neither can the world.

The Aquasana Clean Water Bottle is a masterful and affordable alternative. filter fountain waterIt is the first filter bottle made with patented technology to remove over 99% of lead, bacteria, and chlorine. It is available in glass or BPA-free plastic; it can be easily tucked into a purse or day bag and filled at a fountain with confidence.

At just $39.99, or $29.99 for glass, the stylish bottles represent a fraction of the cost of bottled water. They are a sustainable solution for drinking local water, without worrying about dangerous contaminants.

With lead and other contaminants filling the news and your water supply, considering a carefully crafted filtering option just makes sense.

*As reported by Brady Dennis of the Washington Post. @brady_dennis

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