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Lead Found In Chicago Park District Water Fountains, Sinks

CHICAGO (CBS) -- First, it was a concern about high lead levels at fountains in Chicago Public Schools. Now, Chicago Park District sinks and fountains are being turned off for the same reason--hundreds of them.

CBS 2's Dana Kozlov tells us just how bad it is.

The district has chosen to turn them off to safeguard people's health.

"I was surprised at the number of samples came back positive for elevated lead," said Dr. Susan Buchanan, an associate professor at UIC's School of Public Health. She calls some lead test results, released in a report, alarming.

Of Chicago Park District fountains and sinks tested, 14 of 544 indoor sources and 445 of almost 1900 outdoor fountains came back with potentially dangerous lead levels.

That's above the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended standard of 15 parts per billion. And all in parks where children play.

"It definitely concerns me. It's almost like you have to now bring your own water bottles to the park," a parent at a park says.

A park district official says fountains of concern will be removed, repaired or replaced as necessary.

"It makes me feel better. But the question is, 'are they going to be able to fix it,'" another parent at a park asks.

Buchanan believes it should be a city-wide priority, but, "My first advice would be not to panic," she says. "If a child is just sipping at the fountain just once or twice a week, or even once a day with a few sips, it's probably not going to have an effect on their blood level."

However, Buchanan says if a child's regular, daily water source came from a fountain with high lead levels, he or she should be tested.

Elevated lead in the blood is associated with health, behavioral and cognitive issues in children.

Officials believe the lead in the Chicago Park District fountains and sinks could be caused by older, lead-based pipes.



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