Researchers found that schools offer drinking water to students water through drinking fountains, water pitchers, and providing cups, but many students were not taking advantage of them. Researchers found that students are worried about the cleanliness of the drinking water available to them.

Anna Okropiribce, a student at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School only drinks the water from her school’s water fountains when she is “desperate,” saying the water is warm and metallic tasting.

“It’s pretty gross,” she said. “Once, I filled up my water bottle, and the water wasn’t clear. It was gray. I got scared. I was like, I don’t know if I should drink this.”

Pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Gregory Tasian thinks this is a likely factor in the rise of kidney stones in children. Tasian has found that childhood risk of kidney stones – an affliction historically found most often in middle-aged white men – has doubled in less than 2 decades!

His research, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, first saw the increase in 2005. “Urologists who had been in practice 25 or 30 years were saying, at the beginning of their careers, the children with kidney stones were those with really rare and inherited metabolic conditions,” said Taisan. “Now, we’re seeing otherwise healthy children who just develop kidney disease much earlier in life.”

Tasian and his colleagues analyzed nearly 153,000 medical records, dating from 1997 to 2012. In that time, kidney-stone incidence increased 4.7% annually among teens, and 2.9% per year among African Americans. There was a 45% increase in lifetime risk for women.

Seventy percent of the time kidney stones are passed naturally, but about 30% of the time, they require surgical removal. Kidney stones can be a chronic condition and have been linked to elevated risk of chronic kidney disease as well as cardiovascular and bone disease.

While kidney stones are still considered rare in children and not enough is known about the best course of treatment. Taisan says “if we can get adolescents to drink more water, we can very likely reduce the chance they are going to develop stones.”

Philadelphia’s Sustainability Director, Christine Knapp contends that many cases, the water may be safe to drink, but not appealing. She continues, “sometimes fountains are old. They’re often located near bathrooms or garbage cans, which sends the signal that this part of waste.”

She suggests making the water appealing by adding filtered, bottle-filling stations and providing better messaging around fountains.

Our suggestion? Ensure you are providing clean, filtered water to students throughout your school’s campus while stretching funds by switching to a Quench Filtered Water Cooler. Quench caters to schools’ needs with hydration stations for high-traffic common areas, high-capacity water and ice dispensers for dining halls and cafeterias, and filtered water coolers for offices and classrooms.

Also switching to filtered water coolers gives your school a quick sustainability “win” while also cutting drinking water costs by as much as 50%, compared to traditional 5-gallon water delivery.