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Schools in California could soon start testing water for lead

After all child care facilities were required to test for lead in water, lawmakers proposed a similar requirement for schools.
Schools in California could soon start testing water for lead
Posted at 1:08 PM, Sep 18, 2023

Lawmakers in California passed a bill last week that would require many schools within the state to test for lead in drinking water starting in 2027. 

Assembly Bill 249 passed with almost unanimous support in both the California Assembly and Senate. It now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature. 

The testing requirement applies to schools that have not been built or modernized since 2010. It also applies to schools with previous tests showing high lead levels, regardless of age.

If a test reveals high lead levels, the school is required to notify parents and shut down all affected water systems. Schools would then be required to provide a lead-free source of drinking water. 

Assemblymember Chris Holden said he authored the bill after finding that 1 in 4 child care centers in California had "alarming levels of lead in their water." 

“Even small amounts of lead can lower a child’s health and ability to learn. Lead is a harmful substance that has no place in any drinking water, especially our children’s water,” said Holden.

SEE MORE: Records missing, phones out: Flint water crisis not over

The Association of California School Administrators issued opposition to the bill. 

"The estimated cost to replace a single fixture ranges from $300 to $1,750," the organization said. "One medium-sized school district’s initial estimate to adhere to the proposed requirements under AB 249 and test 16 school sites, with a minimum of 300 fixtures in faucets and sinks, was $1.8 million. This is particularly distressing at a time when the existing K-12 school facility needs statewide exceed $8 billion and the State Facilities Program is exhausted."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are no safe levels of lead in drinking water. Childhood lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems, the CDC said. 

Lead can enter drinking water when pipes corrode from water. 

"Because no safe blood level has been identified for young children, all sources of lead exposure for children should be controlled or eliminated," the CDC said.

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