Lead in School Drinking Water a Pervasive Problem

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CALPIRG Toolkit to Help Parents and Schools Act to Protect Kids

CALPIRG Education Fund

Oakland, CA – With a new school year in full swing, CALPIRG Education Fund today released its 2018 “Get the Lead Out: Back to School Toolkit” to help parents, teachers, and administrators get the lead out of schools’ drinking water.

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water at school,” said Laura Deehan, CALPIRG Education Fund’s Public Health Advocate.  “We want to give parents, teachers, and school administrators the tools they need to get the lead out.”

This week the non-profit journalism site Ed Source is publishing a three-part series on lead in school drinking water. Check out Ed Source’s interactive map to quickly view test results for your neighborhood schools.

Last school year tests revealed lead-tainted drinking water at elementary and middle schools in a number of counties in California, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Moreover, such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. 70% of California schools have not yet reported testing their drinking water for lead. As noted in the toolkit, most schools built in California before 2010 have plumbing and/or fixtures that can leach lead into drinking water.  And at some older schools, the service lines that bring water from the mains in the street into buildings could be made entirely of lead.

“I know many parents who had a new water bottle on their ‘back to school’ shopping list,” said Laura Deehan.  “What about the water that goes in that bottle? We’ve got to make sure our kids have safe drinking water at school.”

CALPIRG Education Fund’s toolkit includes a factsheet, a video, sample materials to press for action, and links to additional resources, especially on technical questions like proper testing.

“Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Dr. Lauren Gambill, a UC Davis pediatrician.  “I strongly recommend parents get the facts about lead contamination of drinking water and how to prevent it.”

A recent law, AB 746 by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, requires that all California schools test their drinking water for lead by July 2019. But state law still allows lead in drinking water up to 15 parts per billion. It’s up to school districts to adopt more protective policies to protect children from inadvertent lead exposure from water fountains.


CALPIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.