KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Montana schools must test drinking water for lead content following state rule changes related to school health, officials said.

Schools may begin in March with a December 2021 deadline to complete testing, The Daily Inter Lake reported Sunday.

Schools are required to test all fixtures providing water for human consumption or food preparation including sinks, drinking fountains and water bottle refill stations.

State officials encouraged elementary schools to begin testing first because young, developing children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure.

Schools are required to test once every three years or submit requests for alternative schedules.

Test results will be published online as they become available, Greg Montgomery of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services adopted revisions in January to the Administrative Rules of Montana related to school health.

The rules had not been updated since 1986 when the federal Safe Drinking Water Act was amended.

Schools with water found to contain an amount of lead less than 5 parts per billion are not required to take action.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school drinking fountains not exceed lead concentration levels of more than 1 part per billion.

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