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Once schools and daycares are fully re-opened following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alberta government will introduce a voluntary testing program for lead and copper in drinking water for these facilities. This program will start with schools with kindergarten and elementary grades and all licensed daycares. Free sample analysis will be provided at that time.
The assessment process is explained in the Lead and Copper in Drinking Water in Schools and Daycares: Assessment and Response Guide. It includes 2 components:
- an assessment of the plumbing in a facility
- sampling of water at the faucets and fountains used for drinking, cooking and food preparation
There have been significant reductions of lead levels in consumer products such as gasoline and paint. However, food and drinking water remain potential sources of lead. Lead and copper can get into drinking water from plumbing materials within the building.
In 2019, Health Canada reduced the limit for lead in drinking water by half, based on a growing body of evidence that ingesting lead, even at low concentrations, may cause health effects in children, such as neurodevelopmental issues.
The human body needs small amounts of copper, but too much copper can lead to negative health effects. In 2019, Health Canada introduced a new limit for copper in drinking water based on evidence that short-term exposure to high levels of copper may cause nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and that long-term exposure at these levels could affect the liver and kidney.
Few facilities are expected to have high levels of copper, but this sampling program provides an opportunity to test for both lead and copper in the building’s plumbing.
Information for schools and daycares
The Lead and Copper in Drinking Water in Schools and Daycares: Assessment and Response Guide provides information for schools and licensed daycares, including:
- health effects of lead and copper
- how to sample and interpret the results
- possible actions to reduce levels of lead
Before the launch of the program, schools and daycares can do some preliminary work in preparation, if they have the resources. This includes:
- starting a plumbing assessment
- creating an inventory of plumbing fixtures
This work can be done using the Master Tracking Table and Plumbing Assessment Questionnaire, below.
- Lead and Copper in Drinking Water in Schools and Daycares: Assessment and Response Guide
- Master Tracking Table (XLS, 495 KB)
- Plumbing Assessment Questionnaire (PDF, 18 KB)
Additional documents will be available after the program is launched, including a sampling request form, a how to sample sheet and an assessment checklist.
If you need more information about the steps your school or daycare can take prior to the program launch, contact Alberta Health Services.
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