Leaders Call on Legislature to Get the Lead Out of School Drinking Water

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BOSTON, MA. Public health leaders and organizations called on state lawmakers to pass a bill to get the lead out of drinking water at Massachusetts schools and child care centers at a virtual State House public hearing. Testifying before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee, public health groups and leaders urged the committee to pass S 580/H 906, An Act ensuring safe drinking water at schools filed by Senator Joan Lovely (Salem), Representative Lori Ehrlich (Marblehead), and a bipartisan group of legislative cosponsors to get the lead out of our schools and child care centers.  

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs how our children develop, learn and behave.  Yet, according to the lead testing data from the Department of Environmental Protection, more than half of the 43,000 taps tested from 980 schools across Massachusetts since 2016 tested positive for lead. The vast majority of those lead levels were in concentrations greater than the 1 part per billion (ppb) limit for lead recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and called for by a new federal and state guidance for schools and child care facilities.  

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Massachusetts is not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG legislative director.  “We need policies that get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools.”

“Everyone should have access to safe drinking water, especially our kids whose developing brains are most at risk for the neurotoxic effects of lead poisoning,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead). “I’m proud to file this legislation with Senator Lovely and to have support from a wide variety of advocates such as MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts PTA, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, and the American Heart Association.”

“Providing safe drinking water to our students represents an economic, environmental, and moral imperative,” said State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “I am pleased to partner with Representative Ehrlich, MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts PTA, Environment Massachusetts and so many advocates to file legislation that would help to fix this problem.”

“Children are at especially high risk of serious harm from lead poisoning because lead is particularly toxic to their rapidly growing and developing brains, and it can seriously alter a child’s ability to learn, communicate, pay attention, and control their behavior,” testified Jackie Coogan, Massachusetts PTA. 

“Everyone should have access to clean, safe drinking water — especially our kids, whose health is most at risk from lead pollution,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “With thousands of tests showing lead in Massachusetts’ schools, we can’t afford to waste any time to protect children from this clear health threat.”

S 580/H 906, An Act ensuring safe drinking water at schools,  protects children’s health by getting the lead out of the water at all schools and child care centers by requiring; the removal of lead service lines; the installation of lead certified filters or water filling stations; and the regular and transparent testing of water at schools. The bill establishes a health-based lead level standard for schools and child care centers of 1 ppb and requires the immediate shut-off of outlets with elevated levels of lead. 

“The good news is that we know how to get the lead out of drinking water,” concluded Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director, “We just need the leadership and commitment to do so. Passing this bill will ensure our kids, their teachers, and the school community will be protected from lead poisoning.”

Full testimony

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