Over the past two years, the tragedy of Flint, Michigan has stunned the nation. We watched the drinking water of an entire city become contaminated with lead. And now we know this toxic threat extends well beyond Flint to communities across the country. In fact, test results now show that lead is even contaminating drinking water in schools and pre-schools — flowing from thousands of fountains and faucets where our kids drink water every day.

Lead is highly toxic, especially for children

A potent neurotoxin, lead affects how our children learn, grow, and behave. According to the EPA,"In children, low levels of [lead] exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells." In fact, medical researchers estimate that more than 24 million children in America will lose IQ points due to low levels of lead.

Lead in the drinking water at school 

Even the limited available data shows drinking water laced with lead at schools and early childhood programs across the country.

The threat of lead in schools’ water affects not only big cities but also suburban and rural communities. Tests have documented lead-tainted water in schools Cherry Hill, NJ, Bergen County, NJYarmouth, ME, and several other school districts in upstate New York, and suburban communities in Illinois.

Sometimes, the levels of lead are exceedingly high. For example, one drinking water fountain at a Montessori school in Cleveland had 1,560 parts per billion. A school in the Chicago suburbs had lead-water concentrations at 212 times the federal standard. Leicester Memorial Elementary in Massachusetts had a tap that tested at 22,400 ppb.

 

A pervasive threat to our children’s health

In all likelihood, these confirmed cases of lead in schools’ water are just the tip of the iceberg. Most schools have at least some lead in their pipes, plumbing, or fixtures. And where there is lead, there is risk of contamination. 

Massachusetts is one of the few states to test extensively and publish all results showing any level of lead in schools’ water. The results are shocking: nearly half of the tests (49.7 percent) conducted at Bay State schools so far have found some level of lead in the water, according to data published by the state as of January 6, 2017.  

Time to Get the Lead Out

Given these facts, the only way to ensure safe drinking water for our children is simply to “get the lead out” of our schools and pre-schools. This involves proactively removing lead-bearing parts from schools’ drinking water systems — from service lines to faucets and fixtures —and installing filters certified to remove lead at every tap used for drinking or cooking.

What you can do 

Contact your school and ask whether it has lead pipes or plumbing. Ask if the water has been tested for lead and to see all the results. Sometimes schools only report levels of lead in water above 15 parts per billion, but there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, especially for our children. 

In addition, we’re calling on all states to “get the lead out” of schools drinking water. Please urge your governor to take strong action to protect our children’s health. Take action. 

Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment America

Statement: Senators push agencies to act on toxic chemicals known as PFAS

Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a source of widespread drinking water contamination. While our federal agencies are standing by, Congress is taking a real bipartisan interest in tackling PFAS contamination in our drinking water. In states as far-flung as Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina, this urgent public health problem calls for urgent action.

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Report | Environment New York Research and Policy Center

Get the Lead Out

Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day.  Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country.  As our report shows, states are failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school.  Instead of waiting for more testing, we need to proactively remove the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment New York Research and Policy Center

New Report: More than two-thirds of states examined receive failing grades for efforts to reduce lead in school drinking water

A total of 22 states earned an “F” grade for their performance in eliminating lead from school drinking water, according to a new study by Environment New York Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Of the 31 states tested, Illinois was the only one (along with the District of Columbia) to receive a mark above the C range.  These results come from the the second edition of the groups’ Get the Lead Out report, which grades state policies for protecting kids from exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: Bipartisan water infrastructure effort could halt sewage pollution

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing today on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), highlighting the need for a new, bipartisan bill that would more than double the CWSRF authorization to $4 billion per year. From Arizona’s leaky pipes to New England’s sewage overflows, America needs to get serious about our water systems. That means dramatically increasing investments in water infrastructure that focus on prevention. We applaud U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Grace Napolitano, Don Young, and John Katko for introducing their bipartisan water infrastructure bill, which takes aim at this problem.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: PFAS hearing elevates need for policy reform

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on the risks of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Witnesses will include senior staff from the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s been six months since Congress’s first hearing on PFAS, and we still have a long way to go. On one hand, DoD needs to clean up their mess at military bases and prevent future contamination. And on the other, EPA needs to protect our health by limiting the use of PFAS, and by setting a strong drinking water standard of one part per trillion for the whole class of chemicals.

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