Colorado passes bill to protect kids from lead-laden drinking water

Media Contacts

DENVER —  The Colorado General Assembly passed a paired down bill that would protect some kids against lead in drinking water at K-5 schools and child care centers. Under the bill, HB22-1358, covered entities will need to test all drinking water sources for lead and filter taps if lead is detected at concentrations of 5 parts per billion (ppb) or greater after testing. The bill dedicates $21 million to reimbursing the costs of testing and remediation. 

“This bill will protect some kids in some schools and child care centers from ingesting lead when they go to get a drink of water,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG. “While this is a good first step with some dedicated money, our school districts can and should act more boldly to ensure safe drinking water for all our kids.”   

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can affect how children learn, grow and behave. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control, agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and the AAP recommends schools and governments use a threshold of 1 ppb rather than the 5 ppb in the current bill.  

“We can’t afford another year of our kids being exposed to lead in their water so it was important that legislators acted this session to direct money to get the lead out of kid’s drinking water. However, relying on testing rather than prevention is a missed opportunity to protect all kids because lead in water ebbs and flows. A 5 ppb trigger for action is likely to leave some lead-bearing faucets and fountains unremediated. That’s why it is important schools go beyond this bill’s minimum requirements if we’re going to truly protect our children from lead exposure,” said Katz.

Specifically, low levels of lead poisoning have been linked to nervous system damage, learning disabilities, shorter stature and impairment of hearing and formation of blood cells. And while lead testing in Colorado has been sparse, the data from other states shows that lead contamination of schools’ water is pervasive.

For these reasons, CoPIRG is calling on schools and child care centers to proactively replace fountains with filtered water stations and install filters on all other taps used for cooking or drinking.  And, as outlined in CoPIRG’s Get the Lead Out toolkit, schools now have access to several sources of funding to take these vital steps on top of the $21 million in HB22-1358. Separate funding is also available for the crucial step of removing lead service lines, which are more common at child care centers than most schools.

“We’ve known for decades that lead is highly toxic for kids – harming their growth, development and learning. Unfortunately, we have slow-played undoing that damage for decades,” said Alex Simon, advocate for CoPIRG. “Filtering the water at every tap where kids drink is the best step right now to eliminate this health hazard, so our kids have safe drinking water wherever they go to learn and play each day.”