STARKVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – A water sampling program conducted by the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service showed encouraging initial data about lead levels in drinking water collected at child care centers around the state. Preliminary data was gathered as part of the SipSafe program.

“More than 100 child care centers have agreed to have us collect water samples at their facilities to be sure the drinking water is safe for consumption,” said Jason Barrett, associate Extension professor and principal investigator for the SipSafe project. “Out of 1,984 faucets tested, just 204 have shown lead levels higher than the program threshold of 5 parts per billion (ppb). And most of those were mop sinks or other faucets not used for drinking water.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level is 15 ppb. Health officials said young children are more at risk from elevated lead levels in drinking water because their brains are growing and developing. Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, learning difficulties, and delayed growth and development.

“We are eager to reassure child care center directors and schools across the state that the water they use for cooking and drinking is safe for their students, but lead is detected only by testing the faucets in their facilities,” Barrett said. “The service is free, and we provide educational materials for teachers and parents to help explain the problems lead can cause, as well as simple solutions if elevated lead levels are found.”

The SipSafe team has worked in 38 Mississippi counties, drawn 1,984 water samples and served 9,635 students. Enrollment is ongoing and open to any licensed child care center or public school serving children up to age five.

To learn more, visit ext.msstate.edu/sipsafe or call Leah Gann at 662-325-2301.