Parents put Lead-Free Schools Toolkit on their “Back to School” List

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Jason Pfeifle

CALPIRG Education Fund

Oakland, CA – With “back to school” in full swing this week, CALPIRG Education Fund today offered a new toolkit to help parents, teachers, and administrators get the lead out of schools’ drinking water.  Citing a lack of accurate information on lead contamination in water and how schools should prevent it, parents and health advocates joined CALPIRG Education Fund in encouraging parents and teachers to put the new toolkit on their “back to school” reading list.

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water at school,” said Jason Pfeifle, 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.”

More and more schools are finding lead in their water.  For example, just this year, tests have revealed lead-tainted drinking water at elementary and middle schools in a number of counties in California, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego.

Moreover, such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. 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 Dawn Wilson, PTA parent in Nipomo.  “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.”  

School districts are largely left to address lead contamination on their own, as current state law does little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. Current California law does not require schools to test their water for lead. And when schools do test, state law still allows lead in drinking water up to 15 parts per billion. Earlier this year, CALPIRG Education Fund gave California a grade of “F” in addressing this threat to children’s health.

“One potential hazard I’m concerned about at my granddaughter’s school is lead in drinking water,” said Arlene Feingold, Environmental Health and Safety consultant. “This toolkit will help parents take an active role in protecting their kids from this threat to their health.”

“Student leaders at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights are going to use this toolkit to inform students and parents and garner support as they advocate for their right to safe drinking water at their school,” said Belinda Campos MPH, Public Health Advocates Program Manager.

“I’m recommending this toolkit to parents,” said Laura Mudge, PTA leader in Santa Barbara. “It’s short and gives you concrete tools to work with your school and ensure safe drinking water for our children.”


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.