New Government Report: Most Schools Failing to Test for Lead in Drinking Water

CALPIRG Education Fund

Statement by Laura Deehan, CALPIRG Public Health Advocate in Response to GAO Report Release

“A new GAO report just confirmed what we have seen here in California schools: far too many schools could be exposing kids to toxic lead in their water.

When children go back to school in August, the last thing families  should be concerned about is toxic exposure from the school drinking fountain. Unfortunately, up until 2010, plumbing and fixtures installed in California homes, schools, and businesses could legally contain lead. This lead can leach into the drinking water and expose our kids to this toxic threat.

There is no safe level of lead; even small amounts are harmful for a child’s brain development and physical growth. Lead exposure is linked to a drop in IQ and behavioral issues like ADHD, anxiety and depression.

California is one of the states the GAO report highlights for having a requirement that all schools test their drinking water, however less than 30% of California schools have completed the required testing within the past year. This is lower than the national average of 41%, despite having access to free testing from their local water board for the last 18 months. 

The GAO report also highlights that the 15 ppb “action level” for lead set by the EPA is not a health-based standard and sends the wrong message to the public. From the report: “EPA is providing schools with confusing and out of date information, which can increase the risk of school districts making uninformed decisions.” The GAO report highlights that the EPA is long overdue updating the current lead and copper rule.

Instead of waiting for DC to act, CALPIRG urges the California State Water Board to lead the way and update the lead and copper rule here in California. As schools prepare for the new school year, they must put one thing on the to do list: Test their drinking water and get the lead out.”