By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer

Schools in Oregon—10 so far— have fallen outside regulatory limits for lead in their drinking water during the past four years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Moreover, many schools in the state have yet to be tested.

Drinking water can become contaminated when acidic water corrodes plumbing and releases lead from older pipes, fittings and fixtures. This can cause health problems such as stomach distress and even brain damage. Children are especially vulnerable, say experts.

The Oregon schools identified as having water systems with apparent lead contamination are in mostly rural areas, but customers in Portland, Gresham, Tigard and Tualatin also tested positive for high lead levels. At Valley Inquiry Charter School in Salem, staff and students are drinking bottled water until a pipe is replaced this summer. Other schools have also shut off their taps while repairs are being made.

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