When dangerous levels of chemicals, in a release of wastewater from an abandoned gold mine, turned Colorado’s Animas River a vivid saffron color, the event galvanized public awareness about similar “toxic time bombs” within thousands of abandoned mines throughout the country.

By contrast, countless other insidious chronic exposures to toxins in our environment attract little attention: Children in many Maine schools and day care centers are ingesting dangerous levels of lead in water from faucets or drinking fountains.

Unlike acute lead poisoning, resulting in seizures or severe cramps within hours, chronic accumulation of lead in a child’s nervous system is correlated with emerging behavioral problems, learning disabilities, even loss of IQ points. Such exposure can ultimately result in diminished income over a lifetime.

An earlier USA Today study found that water samples from 26 Maine schools and day care centers contained lead levels above 15 parts per billion, some far exceeding this threshold for needed correctional action set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In most cases, such results have not been publicized; remediation, which admittedly can be costly, rarely occurs.

After Flint, Michigan’s “worst-case” negligence about a highly contaminated public water supply, an editorial in the March 22, 2016, Press Herald challenged Mainers to recognize similar dangers here and posed the questions: “What are we going to do about it?” and “Are we going to pay now or pay later?”

State Sen. Rebecca Millett and the other sponsors of L.D. 40, “An Act to Strengthen Requirements for Water Testing for Schools,” deserve strong support for this bill’s call to expand yearly testing in schools and day care centers that use public water supplies and to create an accessible database of results.

Pressure from an informed and concerned public is urgently needed to protect our children and grandchildren!

James H. Maier, M.D.