Lead-Free Schools

We’re working to ensure every single child in California has access to lead-free drinking water at school. (Photo: Fountain - jasongillman via pixabay CC0 Public Domain)

Every single child in California should have access to lead-free drinking water at school.

Events like the Flint water crisis have shocked people across the country and put a national spotlight on the problem of lead in drinking water. Yet despite this, California has been slow to ensure all children at school are fully protected from this danger. 

Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that impairs how kids learn, grow, and behave. Even low levels of lead exposure can permanently damage children's brains, kidneys, and overall health. Put simply, there is no safe level of lead in water.

But in California, many school buildings were built using lead pipes and plumbing, back when we didn’t fully understand the danger. 

Now we do, and have banned the use of lead in new pipes and plumbing. But in the many schools which still have these old lead pipes or fixtures, lead can leach into the water that kids drink from fountains or bathroom sinks.

Our children shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of bad decisions we made decades ago — that’s just not a trade-off we should be willing to make.

But for many California students, this is the reality they’re faced with. For example, in 2008, drinking water at several Los Angeles area schools tested for extremely high lead levels, up to 400 times the federal safety standard. And in January, Sacramento State University had to shut off their drinking water fountains because of widespread lead contamination.

It's very possible that these kinds of problems are just the tip of the iceberg for California. Unfortunately, California schools aren’t required to perform regular and comprehensive tests for lead in drinking water, or to replace the pipes if there’s a threat of lead exposure to our kids. 

This isn’t right. Our children deserve better than to have their health and safety put in jeopardy when they take a drink of water at school.

That’s why CALPIRG is calling on the state legislature to ensure every single child in California has access to lead-free drinking water at school. We are calling for mandatory testing, public results, and funding set aside to fix the problems where they exist. 

It's hard to imagine a more fundamental public health protection for our kids, and they depend on us to help keep them safe. Help us make sure we can live up to this promise as parents, as a community, and as Californians.

Issue updates

News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

Most California Schools Aren't Testing Water for Lead

In response to growing concerns about lead in school drinking water, the State Water Board launched a new initiative in January to offer schools free lead tests for their drinking water. Last week, the State Water Board released data showing that less than 5% of schools signed up for the free tests. In 38 counties, not a single school has requested a test.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

Op-Ed in San Diego Union Tribune: California must do more to protect kids from lead exposure at schools

A recent string of reports have revealed lead-contaminated drinking water at several San Diego area elementary schools. Just last week, a therapy dog alerted school officials to tainted water in a charter school classroom. When dogs are sounding the alarm about lead-contaminated water, it’s pretty clear that more needs to be done in California to protect kids from this serious threat to their health.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

VICTORY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: MONSANTO DEFEATED IN CALIFORNIA ROUNDUP CASE

A district court judge last week dismissed Monsanto’s lawsuit against the California Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the ruling, consumers will soon be informed of the health risks of Roundup and other products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New U.N. Report: We Can Feed The World Without Using Pesticides

A report released today by the United Nations finds that it is a “myth” that pesticides are needed to feed the world’s 7 billion people. Farmers can produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without the use of pesticides.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

If It Looks Like a Chicken and Walks Like a Chicken | Steve Blackledge

Earlier this week, Tyson Foods announced another big step toward stopping the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms. The announcement underscores a larger trend that’s been happening for a few years now; consumer pressure is helping to drive important public health changes in the marketplace. To be sure, there are laggards on the antibiotics front (see our recent blog on KFC), but perhaps no company has lagged as aggressively and proudly as Sanderson Farms. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Public Health

Op-Ed in San Diego Union Tribune: California must do more to protect kids from lead exposure at schools

A recent string of reports have revealed lead-contaminated drinking water at several San Diego area elementary schools. Just last week, a therapy dog alerted school officials to tainted water in a charter school classroom. When dogs are sounding the alarm about lead-contaminated water, it’s pretty clear that more needs to be done in California to protect kids from this serious threat to their health.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

VICTORY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: MONSANTO DEFEATED IN CALIFORNIA ROUNDUP CASE

A district court judge last week dismissed Monsanto’s lawsuit against the California Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the ruling, consumers will soon be informed of the health risks of Roundup and other products containing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New U.N. Report: We Can Feed The World Without Using Pesticides

A report released today by the United Nations finds that it is a “myth” that pesticides are needed to feed the world’s 7 billion people. Farmers can produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without the use of pesticides.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

It’s Time to Get Lead out of School Drinking Water, Says CALPIRG

Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, CALPIRG today launched a new campaign for Lead-Free Schools. A new analysis by CALPIRG Education Fund and Environment California Research and Policy Center gave California a grade of “F” for failing to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. Assemblymember Blanca E.Rubio (D-48, Baldwin Park), Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-80, San Diego), and Dr. Lauren Gambill, a pediatrician representing the American Academy of Pediatrics, all joined CALPIRG in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in California's schools.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on Unilever’s Decision to Disclose Fragrance Ingredients in Personal Care Products

CALPIRG applauds personal care product giant Unilever US, the maker of popular brands like Dove and Axe, for its announcement today that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in its personal care brands.

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Report | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Supports State Bill to Limit Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

Since they were developed in the 1940s, antibiotics have been one of the most important tools in modern medicine to protect our health.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Comments on the Blue Shield of California Proposal to Increase Small Employer Health Insurance Rates, Effective July 1, 2013.

After analysis of the complete filing – inclusive of the three subsequent submissions – it appears that for the most part, Blue Shield provided sufficient background data for the requested rate increase. However, we note that it took repeated requests for Blue Shield to provide the information necessary to justify the rate increase.

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Prescription for Danger

New report shows that compounding pharmacies have been exploiting loopholes in the regulatory system for at least a decade.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

CalHEERS: Protecting Consumer Data by Developing and Implementing Strong Physical, Technical and Administrative Security Safeguards

CALPIRG Education Fund is pleased to provide recommendations on best practices and standards for the development and implementation of strong physical, technical and administrative security safeguards for the CalHEERS data ecosystem.

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Blog Post | Public Health

What’s that toxic smell? One Father Clashes with the Chemical Industry | Anna Low-Beer

The movie Stink! originated with one pair of children’s pajamas that Director John Whelan bought his daughters for Christmas in 2011. The new pajamas, when taken out of their plastic packaging, smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. That one smell prompted Whelan to look deeper into fragrance and the chemical industry’s use of secret and often toxic chemicals in our everyday products. He simply wanted to know – what’s in the stuff we buy? “It seemed like a common-sense question to ask…I’m just trying to find out what chemicals they would put on kids’ pajamas,” he said. A common-sense question, yes. One with a simple answer? Not so much. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Antibiotics: Yummy Yucky | Steve Blackledge

Two of the three Yum! Brand companies announced new antibiotics policies this week. One was a promising step to save antibiotics. The other was more "yucky."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Flint Pediatrician Gave a Voice to the Voiceless in Flint, Michigan | Anna Low-Beer

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the Flint pediatrician who led the charge in proving that Flint water was tainted by lead and was poisoning the community. Without her drive and dedication to the children of Flint, it is hard to say how long government officials might have left the public in the dark about the mounting crisis. In honor of Women’s History Month we’re recognizing Dr. Hanna-Attisha -- a doctor, mother, and activist -- who has relentlessly fought for the public interest. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Subway’s New Sandwich is Helping Save Antibiotics | Anya Vanecek

Subway just released its first sandwich made with meat raised without antibiotics. It was a delicious way to address one of the most pressing public health issues of our time.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

U.S. PIRG Testifies in Favor of Strong Chemical Plant Safety Rule | Carli Jensen

Earlier this month, the EPA formally proposed a long-awaited rule on chemical plant safety in response to an executive order issued in 2013 by President Obama, which called on several agencies, including the EPA to modernize their chemical plant safety rules. The new proposed rule triggered a 60-day public comment period, and with it, a public hearing in Washington, D.C., where Legislative Director Jerry Slominski gave the following statement for U.S. PIRG:

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