National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

drugs-shatter-the-myths-coverNational Drug and Alcohol Facts Week runs from January 23rd to 29th. It is a program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to connect students with scientists and other experts to counteract the myths and misinformation about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, television, movies, music, and their peers.

Part of this year’s activities include an online Drugs and Alcohol Chat Day on Thursday, January 26, from 7:00am until 5:00pm CST. Anyone will be able to view the live chat, but schools that have registered in advance and received an access code will be able to submit questions. In addition, approximately two weeks after the chat, a transcript will be posted allowing students and parents to see all of the questions and answers. Transcripts from the past nine years of chats are available now.

The National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week website is the coordinating hub for events going on around the country. On the website, you will find:

While alcohol, cigarette, and opioid use among teens has decreased in recent years, marijuana use remains steady and e-cigarette use is increasing. Make sure that both you and your teen understand the facts regarding drug and alcohol use by checking out the NIDA website together.

SB550 Becomes Law, Reducing Lead in School Drinking Water

sb550-fountain-signedSenate Bill 550 (SB550), the Preventing Lead in Drinking Water bill, was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on Monday, January 16, 2017. The bill has been a key focus for Illinois PTA advocacy this past year, and its passage is a win for the children of Illinois.

It is also a reminder that PTAs can have their biggest effect on the lives of children at their school when they advocate together for policy changes that benefit every child in Illinois or across the country. Illinois PTA thanks those who participated in the passage and signing of SB550 by contacting their legislators.

What SB550 Will Do

During the lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly on January 9 and 10, 2017, SB550 was amended in the House before passage. Here is what the law will do for Illinois children.

  • School buildings built before 2000 that serve 10 or more children in grades pre-K through 5, whether public, private, charter, or nonpublic day or residential institutions, will need to test each source of potable water for lead. Those sources include taps, faucets, drinking fountains, and classroom wash basins as well as food preparation water sources, but janitorial sinks and basins are excluded.
  • The water to be tested is to be the first draw of water that has been standing in pipes for at least 8 hours but not more than 18 hours. If a sample exceeds 5 parts per billion (ppb), the school is to promptly notify parents and legal guardians of the location in the school where that sample was taken. Note that this level is below the US Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level of 15ppb.
  • Schools built before 1987 are to conduct testing by December 31, 2017. Schools built from 1987 to 1999 are to be tested by December 31, 2018. The state will determine by June 30, 2019 if schools built from 2000 onward will need to conduct lead testing as well.
  • Licensed day care centers, day care homes, and group day care homes built before 2000 that serve children under the age of 6 will need to test drinking water for lead based on rules that will be in place by January 1, 2018. Those rules are to include testing requirements, training requirements, and notification of results.
  • Community water systems are to complete a comprehensive inventory of lead service lines in their system by April 15, 2018 and update that information annually. Such systems are also to notify potentially affected residences of construction or repair work on water mains, lead service lines, or water meters that could potentially increase lead levels in drinking water. Notification is not required if the inventory shows that the water system being worked on is lead-free.

Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network

This past fall, SB550 had passed the Senate but looked like it would die in the House. With Illinois PTA advocates meeting with legislators and staff during Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield in November and many more contacting representatives through our online campaign, the bill began to move during the veto session but did not pass. Our final campaign over the holidays to push SB550 through the house during the lame duck session in January helped get the bill finally passed.

Illinois PTA is most effective when our members combine their voices into PTA’s one voice, and the passage of SB550 provides ample proof of the impact we can have together. To add your voice to Illinois PTA’s one voice on future issues, sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network. Your e-mail address is only used to alert you to Illinois PTA advocacy campaigns, and our Voter Voice tools make it easy for you to contact your legislators in just minutes with a prewritten e-mail stating the Illinois PTA position. Join today!

 

Is Your Child Sleep Deprived?

baby-1151351_960_720Sleep is critical to healthy physical and psychological development for children. According to JAMA Pediatrics, the long-term effects of lack of sleep in children include poor diet, sedentary behavior, obesity, reduced immunity, stunted growth, mental health issues (including depression and suicidal tendencies), and substance abuse. Children ages 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep, while teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, yet studies show most children are getting an hour less of sleep each night than they did 30 years ago.

The reasons for this increased lack of sleep are varied. Extracurricular activities increasingly happen at night. Working parents who get home late may spend time with their children later into the evening. Heavier homework loads can keep children up later. Television, video games, and computers have been shown to affect sleep quality due in part to their well-lit screens. A JAMA Pediatrics article analyzing the results of 20 studies of children’s sleep and mobile devices noted that phones and tablets play a significant role in decreased sleep quality, in part because the real-time nature of social media tended to put the brain in a more wakeful state, making it harder to fall asleep after turning off the device.

Playing Catch Up on Sleep

You might think that your child can catch up on their lack of sleep over the weekend, but experts note that irregular sleep schedules affect children’s biological clocks, decrease sleep quality, and increase irritability. Sleeping in on the weekend can also make it more difficult to get a child up for school on Monday morning. Experts recommend that children keep similar sleep schedules during the week and over the weekend.

Have a Bedtime Routine

When you have a family trip to a big event like a wedding, you don’t just all hop in the car and go. You plan it out. You make sure that everyone is dressed appropriately, that you have all the accessories you need for the trip, and that you leave early enough to arrive on time. Getting a child into bed is a similar process. You can’t just stop what they are doing and chase them off to bed. They need time to transition from highly-engaging activities to a more soothing activity like a bath or a bedtime story before crawling into bed and going to sleep.

Be Your Child’s Sleep Advocate

Children often keep going until they collapse from exhaustion. Most of us remember having a toddler sound asleep on the floor in the middle of a pile of toys. Because of this, it is important for adults to educate our children on the importance of sleep. Great Schools recently had an article with seven ways to be your child’s sleep advocate:

  1. Talk to your child about sleep.
  2. Encourage your child to establish a sleep routine.
  3. Say no to late-night TV and computer use (and mobile devices, too).
  4. Check in with your child’s teacher.
  5. Consider the pros and cons of naps.
  6. Exercise plays a role in keeping a regular sleep schedule.
  7. Be a role model.

Sleep is an essential part of student success at school, healthy brain development, positive behavior, and a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.

Lead in School Drinking Water—What Families Need to Know

sb550-fountainNote: Illinois PTA has an advocacy campaign running now through January 10, 2017 to urge the Illinois House to join the Illinois Senate in passing SB550, a bill that would require testing every unique drinking water source in all Illinois schools and report high lead levels to families.

If you were looking to make a pipe, lead looks to be just about the perfect metal to use. It’s fairly soft as metals go, so it’s easy to work with. It doesn’t react strongly with water like iron or steel, so water running in the pipe or in the ground around the pipe won’t make the pipe corrode to a significant. It’s relatively abundant and has been mined for millennia. It seems like the perfect metal for the job; so much so that the word plumbing comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbum. There’s just one problem with lead—exposure to it causes numerous health problems for adults and especially children.

How Lead Gets in Drinking Water

While lead doesn’t react strongly to water like iron or steel, it still corrodes (like iron rusts) when exposed to water, especially if the water has high acidity or low mineral content. Lead poisoning in ancient Rome was not due to its lead pipes, as the high calcium levels in the water formed a protective layer inside the pipes between the lead pipe and the water. It was the use of lead cookware and as an additive in food (e.g., as a preservative in wine) that resulted in lead poisoning.

In the United States, lead pipes were used not only in indoor plumbing but also in the line that ran from the water main to the house. When copper pipes were used, they were often connected with brass fittings (which contain small amounts of lead to make them easier to make) or with lead solder. The longer that water is exposed to these lead-containing items, the higher the lead level in the water. This is why testing for lead in water uses the “first draw” (i.e., water that has sat in the pipe for a while) for the sample.

Homes and buildings built after 1986 are less likely to have lead pipes, brass fixtures and fittings, or lead solder. That is due to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using the Safe Drinking Water Act to reduce the maximum allowable lead content of pipes, fittings, fixtures, and solder in order to be considered safe to use for drinking water.

Lead Exposure Standards

The EPA is required under the Safe Drinking Water Act to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no health effects are likely to occur. These are non-enforceable health goals based only on possible health risks and are known as Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs). For lead in drinking water, the MCLG is zero because any exposure to lead can lead to health issues and because lead bioaccumulates (i.e., builds up over time) in the body.

Since drinking water suppliers likely cannot completely eliminate lead, EPA has set an “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb). One part per billion is like one grain of sand in a sandbox, one drop of ink in a 14,000 gallon backyard swimming pool, or one second in 32 years. The 15 ppb action level was set based on costs and benefits of removing lead from drinking water, not on safety like the MCLG above.

When measuring lead exposure in people, a blood sample is tested. For adults, the level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking action is 10 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). For children, the level is only 5 μg/dL due to the increased health effects of lead on their development and their smaller body size.

It is important to note that drinking water is not the only way that children are exposed to lead. Lead in paint, dust, sole, air, and food may also be sources of lead exposure for children. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up to 20% or more of a person’s exposure to lead. For infants who consume mostly powdered formula mixed with water, 40% to 60% of their exposure can come from drinking water.

Health Effects of Lead on Children

Even low levels of lead exposure in children can result in:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Permanent intellectual disability
  • Reduced ability to pay attention
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Anemia

In addition, lead builds up in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from the mother’s bones along with maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is especially true if the mother does not have enough calcium in her diet. Lead in the mother’s bloodstream can also cross the placental barrier, exposing the fetus to lead. This in utero lead exposure can result in reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth.

School Drinking Water and Lead

As noted above, lead levels in drinking water increase over time as the water sits without moving. For schools, this effect can be particularly important because of how drinking water is used in schools. Afternoon and evening activities at a school are often limited to only part of the school building, meaning that water fountains and sinks in other parts of the building do not run water from the end of the school day until the beginning of the next day. Water is also likely to sit in pipes over weekends and school holidays and breaks.

What You Can Do

The first thing to do is join Illinois PTA’s campaign to pass SB550 in the Illinois House. This bill, which has already passed the Illinois Senate, would require every school in Illinois—public, private, and parochial—to test for lead in the water of every unique drinking water source and to report high lead levels to families. The campaign has a prewritten e-mail to send to your Illinois representative urging them to support SB550 during the lame duck session on January 9-10, 2017. All you need to do is provide your name, contact information, and address (so Voter Voice can look up who your representative is for you). It only takes a minute of your time to speak up for safe school drinking water.

In addition, the EPA has an information page on lead in drinking water, as does the CDC. EPA also provides a Safe Drinking Water Hotline that you can call or e-mail to get your questions answered. The CDC has a general lead exposure information page and information on how to prevent children’s exposure to lead.