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Study Stays Removing Lead In Schools Can Dramatically Improve Education

By Victor Trammell

Over the last several months, numerous public school districts across the nation have made news headlines for having high levels of lead in school water systems. has published several stories this summer about unsafe lead levels in the water of drinking fountains at schools. The most recently covered story involved 30 schools in the St. Louis public school district where drinking fountains were shut down after it was found that children were previously exposed to lead in water.

Consuming water with unsafe levels of lead is obviously hazardous to children. Lead exposure has been proven to cause blood and brain deficiencies. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure because they are still growing and developing.

However, a scientific study has concluded that reducing lead levels in school water systems is not only doable, but it can significantly improve the quality of education for school children.

According to a study led by a research team from Brown University, reducing lead levels in water leads to positive outcomes in the academic proficiency of children.

“Our preferred estimates use the introduction of a lead remediation program as an instrument in order to control for the possibility of confounding and for considerable error in measured lead exposures,” the researchers wrote in a recent working paper.

“The estimates suggest that a one unit decrease in average blood lead levels reduces the probability of being substantially below proficient in reading by 3.1 percentage points (on a baseline of 12 percent),” the study’s authors also wrote. Here is how the study was conducted, according the abstract of the working paper’s authors:

We constructed a unique individual-level longitudinal data set linking preschool blood lead levels with third grade test scores for eight birth cohorts of Rhode Island children born between 1997 and 2005. Using this data, we show that reductions of lead from even historically low levels have significant positive effects on children’s reading test scores in third grade. (

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