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 | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Food

Taco Bell Moves Away From Chicken Raised on Medically Important Antibiotics

Taco Bell will no longer serve chicken raised on medically important antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. The announcement was included in a release from Taco Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands, and comes amid widespread consumer demand and concern from the medical community about the overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Taco Bell’s announcement will put major market pressure on the meat industry to stop overusing antibiotics and should push its partner brands KFC and Pizza Hut to have stronger commitments as well. 

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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.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Food

Big Win For Consumers’ Right-to-Know

Today, the U.S. Senate failed to pass their version of the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which would have kept consumers in the dark about what's in the food they eat, falling 12 votes short of the 60 required to continue the debate.

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Media Hit | Public Health

California Enacts Strictest Animal Antibiotic Law in the U.S.

But consumer demand is driving more companies to kick the antibiotic habit. "I think we’re seeing the marketplace change, and this legislation will continue to push it in that direction," said Jason Pfeifle, public health advocate at the California Public Interest Research Group, a consumer group that supports the new law.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

Poll Shows Bi-Partisan Support for New Rules to Prevent Chemical Disasters

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering new chemical plant safety rules, and a new poll of likely 2016 voters shows strong support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents for rules that would reduce or eliminate the hazards posed by thousands of chemical plants across the nation.

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Media Hit | Public Health

Capital Public Radio: Bill Seeks To Combat Antibiotic Resistance Through Livestock

The bill would limit the use of antibiotics in livestock. Beginning in 2018 a veterinarian would have to approve the medication. Over-the-counter sales would also be eliminated.

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Media Hit | Public Health

Contra Costa Times: Animal antibiotics bill has a flaw that must be fixed

CALPIRG Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle writes a guest commentary on the need for stronger restrictions to end the overuse of antibiotics on livestock. 

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Media Hit | Public Health

ABC News: Super-Sized Changes to the Golden Arches' Chicken Menu

Coverage of the McDonalds' announcement that they will stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics that are important to human health. "[Factory farms] are giving antibiotics daily to animals, in food and water, to prevent illnesses and promote faster growth. This is unnecessary, inappropriate and makes all of us less safe," said Emily Rusch with CALPIRG. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Predictable Problems in the FDA Annual Report | Bill Wenzel

Not only did the FDA’s voluntary Guidance for Industry #213 not lower the sale and use of antibiotics for food-producing animals, these sales actually increased 4%.

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Blog Post | Public Health

The Phantom, and Other Menaces | Anya Vanecek

In the midst of warnings that the post-antibiotic era is quickly approaching, we see evidence that it has already arrived.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Saving your bacon: takeaways from the W.H.O. announcement on the dangers of processed meat | Anna Low-Beer

When the World Health Organization announced last week that processed meat is linked to cancer, the world went wild. But we can all agree: we have the right to know about these dangers. So what about the thousands of dangerous invisible chemicals that saturate our daily products? Surely, we have the right to know about them too.

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Blog Post | Public Health

A Sub-stantial Achievement | Steve Blackledge

On October 20, Subway announced its plan to phase out antibiotics from its entire meat supply. This victory is just the next step of our mission to save antibiotics.

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