No lead in Kean’s water

By: Nicole Brown | Published April 28, 2016

Kean University water showed no sign of lead contamination according to an email blast the university sent on April 12.

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Graphic by Y. Smishkewych

According to the email, the university tested drinking water samples in thirty different locations on campus, including the residential halls, food services and buildings where children play and study. The university highlighted that the results from the samples are below the New Jersey state limit of .015 microgram per liter.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures the amount of lead in water by parts per billion (ppb). One part per billion is equal to 1.0 microgram per liter. The EPA sets an action level at 15 parts per billions—the equivalent of 15 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. If the lead levels reach or exceed 15 parts per billion, it is important that measures are taken to reduce the lead levels.

Dr. Juyoung Ha, an assistant professor for the School of Environmental and Sustainability Science, described lead poisoning as a toxic, unnatural and non-biological component that, when ingested by humans, can lead to serious complications or fatal conditions.

“Lead toxicity depends on the dosage and duration,” said Ha. “When small concentration of lead accumulates in the body, it becomes toxic.” Dr. Ha said it is impossible to tell whether or not your water has concentration of lead without testing it. She said that bad smell and discoloration are signs that the water is contaminated, but not necessarily that it is lead contaminated.

“Water is a very unique nature,” said Ha. “It is hard to tell from the smell because it is all dissolved irons.”

Dr. Ha said the water in the pipeline neither has oxygen nor exposure to sunlight. And, as a result, microorganisms that thrive in this environment produce acids that cause pipes to corrode and pipe corrosion leads to lead contamination in tap water.

Ha asserts that elevated levels of lead in the body block the normal functioning of the blood. At the acute stage, individuals who are exposed to lead may experience nausea, awkwardness in mobility, memory loss or tingling in the fingers.

“The chronic stage is irreversible,” said Ha. “It can cause neurological malfunction and damage the lungs.”

She said that children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults. But, according to the EPA, infants, the elderly and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable.

“Children are at higher risk because they are younger,” said Dr. Ha. “Their brains and immune systems are still developing.”

Some common sources of lead include arts supplies such as paint, gasolines and contaminated dust. Dr. Ha noted that paint and gasolines that contain lead are no longer used in the United States.

Dr. Ha said that lead poisoning is not a modern phenomenon. One of the first recorded cases of lead poisoning can be traced back to about the late 1700s.

“Francisco Goya, a very famous Spanish Artist, used his tongue to lick his brush while he painted,” said Ha. “His death was later linked to lead poisoning.”

Dr. Ha said that early detection and preventions are paramount. In addition to taking precaution measures, she urged individuals to not rely solely on authorities to test the water for lead.

“Everyone should be concern about lead poisoning,” said Ha. “Everyone should get a copy of the recorded data analysis of their water and check with authorities to make sure they are following the regulations.”

Prior to the email, Kean University students expressed concerns about the lead status of the university’s drinking water, but now they are relieved since the university revealed that its water is safe.

“I feel really good that there is no lead in our water,” said Ally Tufaro, a freshman student. “Other schools should test their water as well.”

Shocking lead poisoning findings gained national attention, after elevated levels of lead were found in Flint, Michigan water supply and in the drinking water of several Newark Public Schools.

Kean said it would carry out additional tests in April and release the results as soon as the report is available.

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