The approach includes the use of mail-out test kits, an online enrollment and reporting portal, and most importantly, training and communication support. Coincidentally, the testing approach is also ideal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using this community-based approach allows child care and school administrators to understand the problem, communicate with staff, parents, and children, and take collective action to make water quality improvements.
“Teachers and administrators in North Carolina's child care centers deserve enormous gratitude for the ways they go the extra mile for young children every day,” states Vikki Crouse, Policy Analyst at NC Child. “They understood immediately that infants and young children are uniquely sensitive to the long-term, harmful impacts of lead exposure. Their willingness to show up for families and young kids — as teachers, as caregivers, and now as citizen scientists — inspires us all to work harder for kids each day."
With federal grant funding since April 2020, the program is currently testing and providing communication support for needed mitigation in all open licensed North Carolina child care centers and elementary schools with Head Start programs. When lead is identified, there are often simple options for getting it out of taps, including the use of no-cost clean water habits along with low-cost solutions such as the replacement of lead-contaminated faucets or the installation and maintenance of filtration systems.
“The Clean Water for Carolina Kids collaboration has been critical to extending the reach of environmental health programs working against limited resources and diminished public trust,” said Ed Norman, the Program Manager for the NC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. “We continue to improve the safety of drinking water throughout our state by eliminating faucets and plumbing that leach dangerous amounts of toxic lead into water. Our partnership has improved the health outcomes of thousands of North Carolinians beginning in childhood but lasting a lifetime.”