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CALPIRG Education Fund
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Gaps in California law requiring schools to test for lead could leave children at risk

New law prompts widespread testing for lead but limited action
Nico Savidge and Daniel Willis

Gaps in a new California law requiring schools to test their drinking water for lead could leave children vulnerable to the toxic metal. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last October, puts California among only seven states and the District of Columbia nationwide that require schools to test their drinking water for lead. Thousands of schools across the state have already tested the water flowing from their drinking fountains, sinks and other sources.

But California’s law establishes a limit for lead in drinking water that is far too lenient, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a national pediatricians’ group. The law requires schools to shut down or replace lead-contaminated fixtures only if tests find lead concentrations in their water higher than 15 parts per billion, the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

No action is required at hundreds of schools across California where tests found lead in drinking water at levels at or under 15 parts per billion.

Public health advocates, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the consumer group CALPIRG, say no amount of lead is safe and have pushed for lead limits to be lowered to 1 part per billion. The organizations warn that water with levels lower than 15 parts per billion can still increase lead concentrations in children’s blood, limiting their brain development and putting them at increased risk for behavioral problems.

“We know there is no safe lead level,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health. “Schools ought to work to remove that source of lead for these kids.”


Read the full story, that includes quotes from CALPIRG executive director Emily Rusch here. 

Check out their interactive map of school testing results here

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