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Health Experts and Advocates Issue Joint Call to “Get the Lead Out” at Schools and Child Care

For Immediate Release

National experts in education, child care and children's health today issued a joint call to get the lead out of schools and child care facilities.   Released during National Public Health Week, the new report echoes the key recommendation of Environment America and U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s joint “Get the Lead Out” campaign – that the best way to protect children’s health is to remove lead.

"Our kids deserve safe drinking water - especially at school and pre-school where they go each day to learn and play,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “We know that prevention is the best strategy for protecting all children from lead exposure. That means pro-actively removing lead-bearing pipes and fountains and taking other immediate steps to ensure safe drinking water at all schools.”

Lead is a potent neurotoxin. Linked to brain damage and other health effects, lead can profoundly impair the way our children learn, develop, and behave.  More than 66 million children in the U.S. are enrolled in schools and child care programs, where they may be exposed to lead in old paint, water pipes and fixtures, soil, air, and products on a daily basis.

As more schools test their water, they are finding lead. And research by Environment America Research & Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The new report, Eliminating Lead Risks in Schools and Child Care Facilities, is the result of a workshop convened by the Children’s Environmental Health Network, Healthy Schools Network and the Learning Disabilities Association of America. The workshop featured health experts like Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, whose presentation vividly demonstrated how even low levels of lead have serious impacts on children’s health.

The new report also includes Environment America’s presentation on how some states and communities are starting to heed the call to get lead the out of drinking water at school. Illinois is now requiring schools to remediate any outlet where lead is detected in the water, down to 2 parts per billion (ppb).  Washington, DC’s new ordinance not only sets a 5 ppb standard for schools’ water but also requires filters to be installed at every faucet and fountain.

To help parents and educators understand what actions are needed to protect children from lead,  Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund have issued a Get the Lead Out toolkit - including a factsheet, a video, sample materials to press for action, and links to additional resources, especially on technical questions like proper testing.

“When parents pack busy kids off for school for the day, one thing they shouldn't have to worry about is that the playground at school will be covered in lead contamination. Unfortunately, this report shows that the problem of lead in school and daycare is a real health risk. This report is the first step in getting rid of lead in schools and daycares.” -- Kara Cook, Toxics Program Director, US PIRG

Environment America Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.

U.S. PIRG 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.