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Investigations

Quebec says it will pay for daycares to test tap water for lead

WATCH: The Quebec government is being criticized for not having a detailed action plan for dealing with lead contamination in drinking water in communities across the province.

The Quebec government says it will pay daycare operators across the province to test their tap water for lead following a year-long investigation from Global News, Le Devoir and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism.

A spokesman from the provincial family ministry made the comments in response to questions in the wake of a series of media reports.

Global News reported in July that a provincial research institute had warned of high levels of lead in a number of schools and daycares across the province. The report also noted that the research warned the problem could be more widespread since officials were not testing all taps in all schools.

A subsequent report by La Presse confirmed that many schools were at risk.

The government said on Friday that it would be reaching out to daycares in the coming days to ensure they could proceed with testing.

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“The ministry will assume the costs of all testing,” Quebec family ministry spokesman Alexandre Noël said in an email.
“The ministry is introducing a financial incentive (in assuming the costs of tests conducted by daycares) because it doesn’t have any legal power to enforce a limit on the amount of lead in drinking water at their facilities since they are recognized in Quebec as private businesses,” Noël said.
“The ministry is confident that this additional financial support granted to the stakeholders in the network will ensure that tests are done and that mitigation measures will be implemented as needed.”
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Scientists say there is no safe level of lead and that children are especially vulnerable since their bodies can absorb more of the neurotoxin than adults. Exposure to lead has been linked to behavioural illnesses such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and a loss of IQ in children, among other health effects.

The ministry said it hadn’t determined how much the testing would cost in total but added that it would have more details, depending on the response from the daycares.

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The government has also recently sent out letters to school boards across the province saying that it hopes they will conclude testing of taps in their schools within the coming months. It has not yet indicated how it plans to ensure that the testing takes place in schools.