Are School Water Fountains Safe?

Are School Water Fountains Safe?

While it is summer, the kids are likely not in school. That makes it a perfect time to talk about some potential hazards they’ll face when they return. A big question parents ask is “are school water fountains safe?” 

The answer is somewhat complicated.

Taking a Drink

First, let’s talk about the water itself. For the most part, the water from these fountains tends to be relatively safe. In most situations, it is well regulated and comes from the same supply as any drinking source. As a result, the fountain water is tested on a regular basis to meet federal and state standards.

That’s good news, since kids need to stay hydrated. According to the CDC, in this regard, public water fountains should be safe. There is almost no risk of disease from the water alone. Of course, that’s not the end of the investigation. When asking the question “are school water fountains safe?,” you need to consider the pipes and the fountain itself.

Digging Deeper: Are School Water Fountains Safe?

First, some good news. The spout is likely pretty safe. Even if kids are putting their mouths all over it, the spout should be constantly rinsed by fresh running water.

However, that’s not the end. The bowl underneath the spout may not be so clean. Kids could be sneezing into it, or even spitting. That saliva and resulting bacteria may remain and never get washed away.  This can leave the water fountain covered in germs, including E. coli, legionella and more. Of course, that’s not even mentioning COVID-19. In this regard, be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

Check the Pipes 

Beyond the external apparatus, there are also the pipes to consider. Public or school water fountains are typically found in areas that may not be regularly refurbished or cleaned. Schools or municipal areas may not have their pipes changed quite as often as they need.

Older pipes can be either corroded or contaminated. This can lead to harmful chemicals and toxins in the water. Children tend to have less adapted immune systems, so it is possible for them to be seriously hurt by potentially contaminated water.

Safer Water Sources

In the end, are public and school water fountains safe? As you can see, the answer is murky. We’ve likely all drank from one of these at some point during our lives and have been fine. The strong odds are that our kids will survive, too. 

That said, it may be wiser to simply bring a water bottle from home. There are many situations in which the water from a public drinking fountain won’t be totally safe. Some of these situations can lead to kids or adults contracting a nasty cold from germs around the basin of the fountain. In other cases, who knows how old the pipes are? Overall, it doesn’t always pay to take the risk.

Instead, we recommend sending your kids to school with their own water supply. Filtered or even just bottled water can be a much safer choice. The blaring sun can make us thirsty, so it’s always a good idea to keep a bottle of water handy anyway.

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