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

2016 Shows First Decline In Antibiotics Sales For Livestock, Following Numerous Commitments From Restaurants And Food Companies

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its annual report of antibiotics sales for livestock and poultry, showing the first decline in year-to-year sales since recording began. Overall, sales of medically important antibiotics to food animals decreased by 14 percent from 2015 through 2016.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinners from Store Shelves

Today, Target announced that it will be removing two fidget spinner models that contain well over the legal limit of lead for children’s toys from its store shelves. Target had initially balked at our request to do so, citing a Consumer Product Safety Commission rule stating that general use products directed at adults don’t need to follow the same lead guidelines as children’s products directed at children 12 and under. These two models of fidget spinners, the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass and the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal, were labeled for ages 14 and up.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

High Levels of Lead Found in Fidget Spinners

U.S. PIRG Education Fund found fidget spinners with high levels of lead for sale at Target stores across the country. Parents and consumers need to know about these lead-laden toys, especially because we alerted Target and the toy’s distributor, Bulls i Toy, to our findings, but they refused to address the problem. The toxic fidget spinners are still available both in toy aisles at Target stores and on its website. Incredibly, Target and Bulls i Toy defend their inaction by pointing to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) declaration that fidget spinners are NOT technically “children’s products” subject to legal limits for lead.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

World Health Organization Urges Meat Industry To Cut Routine Antibiotic Use

The World Health Organization’s new guidelines on antibiotic use in the meat industry couldn’t come sooner. At least 2 million Americans become ill each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die. The guidelines make clear that the agriculture sector needs to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in healthy animals.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

San Francisco Moves to Ban Toxic Flame Retardants in Furniture and Children's Products

Today at a committee hearing, San Francisco Supervisors voted to ban toxic flame retardant chemicals in furniture and children's products, moving the bill forward for consideration by the full board. At CALPIRG, we applaud this move.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

World Health Organization Urges Meat Industry To Cut Routine Antibiotic Use

The World Health Organization’s new guidelines on antibiotic use in the meat industry couldn’t come sooner. At least 2 million Americans become ill each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die. The guidelines make clear that the agriculture sector needs to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in healthy animals.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

San Francisco Moves to Ban Toxic Flame Retardants in Furniture and Children's Products

Today at a committee hearing, San Francisco Supervisors voted to ban toxic flame retardant chemicals in furniture and children's products, moving the bill forward for consideration by the full board. At CALPIRG, we applaud this move.

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Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

CALPIRG applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

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Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Statement on San Diego Unified Lead Policy

Our Public Health Advocate, Jason Pfeifle, joined San Diego school officials to announce the district's new policy for protecting kids from lead in drinking water. The new plan requires the district to test all drinking water outlets for lead and to do physical repairs anytime a water tap tests positive for lead at 5 parts per billion of higher. This new standard is one third of the level of lead currently allowed in school drinking water by California policy. This new policy was adopted in response to CALPIRG calling on the school district to adopt more stringent standards for ensuring safe drinking water for kids. 

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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, Antibiotics

Grilling to protect public health | Anya Vanecek

With antibiotics, we can all enjoy the summer free from the worry that a stumble on the sidewalk or a minor burn from the grill could turn into a serious illness. So what could be a better centerpiece to the picnic table than meat raised without routine antibiotics?

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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. 

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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."

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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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