Lisa Madigan: Illinois needs to protect children from lead exposure
Last spring, my office and the Illinois Environmental Council drafted a bill to address the fact that many Illinois children have rates of lead exposure significantly higher than the national average.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe level of lead to ingest. The devastating impacts of lead exposure on young children are well-known and often irreversible; they suffer lifelong intellectual, emotional and behavioral problems.
This legislation would have elementary schools and day cares test their drinking water. Many school districts are already doing this testing and have discovered alarming rates of lead contamination. Results from Chicago Public Schools show over a third of schools tested had water sources that contained lead.
Yet not all schools and day cares have performed testing because critics say it costs too much and is sure to reveal larger and more expensive problems.
The testing is only an average of $15 per water sample, and there are many inexpensive and immediate solutions, including shutting off the tainted water source and asking parents to send their child to school with a bottle of water.
But the bill got stalled in Springfield by opponents. Delaying the bill and refusing to test is at best a short-sighted strategy and at worst a complete disregard of our duty to protect children.
Lead testing is a simple and inexpensive way to immediately identify and prevent serious, long-term and expensive problems that otherwise will cost families, schools and government much, much more.
It is unconscionable that we are not doing all we can to protect young children and infants from dangerous lead exposure. It's past time for the governor, his agencies and the legislature to agree to do something easy and helpful for our children's future.