Few Tennessee day cares test water for lead despite free program to help

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / Savannah Benedict, a student in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga master of public health program, fills a bottle with water that will be used to test for lead contamination on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. UTC graduate students are helping test water in an effort to prevent lead poisoning in young children.

Lead could be lurking in the water at your child's day care. It's a toxic metal that can't be seen, smelled or tasted in water.

Although the state offers free water testing to any licensed child care facility, the vast majority of facilities in Tennessee have not participated.

The most common sources of lead in drinking water are pipes, faucets and plumbing fixtures that contain the metal, and the best way to lower risk of exposure is to test the water and replace the culprit plumbing fixture or install a filter if results come back positive for lead.

While Tennessee law mandates that schools test their drinking water for lead, no such requirement exists for day cares, which some children attend five days a week. Infants who drink formula are especially vulnerable due to the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.