SEATTLE— State legislators have introduced a bill to protect kids from lead in Washington State by getting lead out of drinking water at schools and daycare centers. The bill requires water utilities to replace lead service lines at schools and early childhood programs within three years.
“No parent should have to worry whether their child is drinking lead at school,” said Bruce Speight, Environment Washington Director. “Lead has been banned in paint since 1977 and in gasoline for nearly as long; it’s about time we ‘get the lead out’ of our drinking water systems too. Environment Washington applauds Rep. Jessyn Farrell for her leadership in addressing this urgent public health issue.”
Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that causes chronic problems: it lowers IQ and causes behavioral problems. Lead is especially damaging to kids – impairing how they learn, grow, and behave. Medical literature cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that kids nationally are losing an estimated 23 million IQ points from lead exposure – mostly due to a high number of children exposed to low levels of lead.
“This bill takes action to protect those at greatest risk from the hazards of lead in drinking water – our children,” said State Representative Jessyn Farrell, prime sponsor of the bill. “We’re targeting service lines at schools and daycares because those are the primary sources of most children’s drinking water during the week, and studies of the harmful effects of lead on their developing brains underscore the urgency of doing this now.”
While lead can leach into water from older fixtures or plumbing, lead service lines – the pipes that connect a school to the public water system - are one of the most significant sources of lead contamination. In fact, experts have calculated that lead service lines account for 50-75 percent of lead found at the tap in residential settings.
“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly stated that there is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Dr. Steven Gilbert, PhD, DABT, at the Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders at the University of Washington. “It is essential that we remove this known source of childhood lead exposure. We have an ethical responsibility to protect our children and ensure that they can reach and maintain their full potential free from needless and harmful lead exposure.”
“The only sure-fire way to protect our kids from lead in water is to remove lead service lines and lead-bearing fixtures. It’s time for state leaders to ‘get the lead out’ of our drinking water infrastructure,” concluded Speight.
Environment Washington is a statewide, membership-based environmental advocacy organization that works for clean air, clean water and open spaces. www.environmentwashington.org. WashPIRG is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization that stands up to powerful special interests. www.washpirg.org.