Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.6 Water Supply and Plumbing Testing for Lead and Copper Levels in Drinking Water

Drinking water, including water in drinking fountains, should be tested and evaluated in accordance with the assistance of the local health authority or state drinking water program to determine whether lead and copper levels are safe.
Lead and copper in pipes can leach into water in harmful amounts and present a potential serious exposure. Lead exposure can cause: lower IQ levels, hearing loss, reduced attention span, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, coma, convulsion, and even death (2,3). Copper exposure can cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver or kidney damage, and complications of Wilson’s disease. Children’s bodies absorb more lead and copper than the average adult because of their rapid development (2,3).

It is especially important to test and have safe water at child care facilities because of the amount of time children spend in these facilities.

Caregivers/teachers should always run cold water for fifteen to thirty seconds before using for drinking, cooking, and making infant formula (3). Cold water is less likely to leach lead from the plumbing.

Lead is not usually found in water that comes from wells or public drinking water supply systems. More commonly, lead can enter the drinking water when the water comes into contact with plumbing materials that contain lead (2,4).

Child care facilities that have their own water supply and are considered non-transient, non-community water systems (NTNCWS) are subject to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) requirements, which include taking water samples for testing (1,2).

Contact your local health department or state drinking water program for information on how to collect samples and for advice on frequency of testing. See also the EPA references below.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Availability of Drinking Water Water Supply Testing of Drinking Water Not From Public System Water Test Results Testing for and Remediating Lead Hazards
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2009. Drinking water in schools and child care facilities.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2005. Lead and copper rule: A quick reference guide for schools and child care facilities that are regulated under the safe Drinking Water Act. Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Water.
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2005. 3Ts for reducing lead in drinking water in child care facilities: Revised guidance. Washington, DC: EPA, Office of Water.
  4. Zhang, Y., A. Griffin, M. Edwards. 2008. Nitrification in premise plumbing: Role of phosphate, pH and pipe corrosion. Environ Sci Tech 42:4280-84.