Arizona Gets a ‘D’ for Efforts to Address Lead in School Drinking Water

Media Contacts

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water in Arizona and across the country, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center gave Arizona a “D” grade for addressing the problem, according to a national report.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Arizona is still not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Arizona needs policies that actually get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools. Any grade short of an “A” isn’t acceptable.”

John Rumpler with the Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center noted that lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how children learn, grow and behave and stated that even low levels of lead exposure have beenlinked to loss of IQ points, increased hyperactivity and damage to the human nervous system.

Although the organizations recognize that Arizona uses a stronger standard (15 parts per billion) than the federal government (20 parts per billion), the report documents that current regulations are too weak to protect kids from lead-laden water at school. Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center favor the one ppb standard for lead in schools’ drinking water, consistent with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the report, the organizations call on state policy makers to design policies that proactively get the lead out. In particular, the organizations recommend that instead of waiting for tests to confirm that children have been drinking lead, Arizona should immediately install certified filters on every faucet and fountain used for drinking or cooking in schools across the state. Further, since risk exists wherever there is lead, they also mentioned the need to replace all lead-bearing parts from schools’ drinking water systems — from service lines to faucets and fixtures. And because even low levels of lead can irreversibly damage children’s health, the groups urge schools to shut off taps where lead in water exceeds one part per billion.

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center’s report also provides recommendations for federal policy makers including the need to enforce and strengthen federal rules to protect drinking water from lead; and providing major funding to help states and communities remove lead in water infrastructure — including lead service lines and plumbing/fixtures in schools.

“No parent should have to worry about their child drinking water with lead,” said Rumpler.