RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WNCN) — Researchers in the Triangle are working to make sure children across the country have access to safe drinking water.
“The focus of our study was to be able to try to predict which child care centers were going to be at higher risk of having lead in their tap or their drinking water,” explained Riley Mulhern, a research environmental engineer at RTI International.
Mulhern and Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, the director of RTI’s Environmental Health and Water Quality Program, explained the study, which used machine learning to make these predictions.
“We collected over 22,000 water samples from over 4,000 child care facilities across the state,” Mulhern said. “Using these machine learning algorithms, we were able to identify child care centers that were at higher risk of lead much more effectively than using sort of more traditional means of prioritizing.”
The researchers already have data from North Carolina.
“We have tested every child care center in North Carolina for lead at their drinking and cooking taps,” Redmon said.
Now they’re making their methods available to other localities, which may not have the funding to test all facilities.
“Other areas and other states that are having testing challenges can use these resources to really identify — on a building scale — which facility should be prioritized,” Redmon said. “Then, within that, you should test every drinking and cooking tap.”
If lead does turn up, Mulhern says there are ways to make the water safer, like changing faucet fixtures and installing certified filters that can remove lead.
If you’d like to see test results from child care facilities across the state, click here: https://www.cleanwaterforcarolinakids.org/data