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

Childhood Lead Exposure Bills to Watch This Week in CA Legislature

This week the California Legislature is considering a set of bills dealing with children's exposure to lead. A recent Reuters story details how lead poisoning currently impacts children in hundreds of areas in Los Angeles County, from affluent neighborhoods to low-income areas. In a number of neighborhoods, more than 5% of children had elevated lead levels in their blood, a rate higher than that found in Flint, Michigan.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

5 San Diego Schools Test Positive for Unsafe Lead Levels in Water

San Diego, CA – The San Diego Unified School District released new drinking water test results for 15 elementary and middle schools in the district. The results show that 5 of the schools had at least one water outlet test positive for lead at 5 parts per billion or higher.

> Keep Reading
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

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Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

Toxic Chemicals Found in Kids' Makeup Products- What Will You Shop for This Halloween?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Advocates and parents joined together today to release a new report showing that potentially harmful chemicals could be in the products marketed to your kids. Protecting your children’s health and well-being may also require careful inspection of the face paints sold in your local stores and at large retailers because they can be contaminated by heavy metals including lead and cadmium. 

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Public Health

East Bay Times: California must tackle super-pollutants in air

"Through decades of emissions restrictions, California has made huge strides in cleaning our air and protecting public health from the worst effects of air pollution. But there is still more work to do, and the Legislature has an opportunity right now to pass a bill that would dramatically cut the super pollutants in our air," writes CALPIRG's Public Health Advocate Jason Pfeifle in the East Bay Times. 

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

More Than 350,000 Urge KFC to Prevent Abuse of Antibiotics in Its Chicken Supply

Today, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Food Animals Concern Trust (FACT) will deliver more than 350,000 petitions from consumers nationwide to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) headquarters in Louisville, while calling on the nation’s largest fried chicken chain to end the routine use of antibiotics by chicken producers in its supply chain. The petition signatures were also collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and CREDO Action. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CALPIRG | Public Health

CALPIRG Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) Reform

We are disappointed with the TSCA bill that was released by the House and Senate leaders and we urge Congress to reject the bill. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. By unnecessarily preempting states’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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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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Blog Post | Public Health

Victory! Subway Commits to Help Save Antibiotics

Yesterday Subway announced their plan to serve only antibiotic-free meat. Subway announced that they will completely phase out all antibiotic meat by 2025, with antibiotic free chicken made available by March 2016 and turkey by December 2016. This is a significant victory for public health.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Monsanto's RoundUp - It Doesn't Just Kill Weeds | Jason Pfeifle

Recent studies have shown that exposure to glyphosate - the key ingredient in RoundUp - poses grave health risks for people.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Livestock Antibiotics Bill is a Win for Public Health | Jason Pfeifle

Late last Friday the California Legislature passed SB 27, authored by Jerry Hill, to set new restrictions on antibiotic use in livestock production.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Administration Plan to Protect Antibiotics | Sujatha Jahagirdar

Today, the National Task Force for Combatting Resistant Bacteria released a five-year action plan to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.  While the plan will take several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it will miss the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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