California child care centers find high lead levels in drinking water

May 17, 2023
Test results for lead in the drinking water of licensed child care centers find that over 250 facilities have high levels of lead contamination in their water.

Recent drinking water test results in California reveal that over 250 licensed child care centers in the state have lead levels in drinking water exceeding action levels, according to a press release by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The U.S. EPA’s lead action level for community drinking water systems is 15 parts per billion (ppb), and California’s limit for lead in child care centers is 5 ppb. EWG says that the results show that California’s babies, toddlers and young children may have been drinking very high levels of lead contaminated water for decades: one facility’s water tested for over 11,000 ppb, eight facilities for over 1,000 ppb, 76 facilities for over 100 ppb, and 183 facilities for over 50 ppb.

The tests were conducted in compliance with Assembly Bill 2370, which requires licensed child care centers to test their tap water for lead contamination and centers must lower lead levels that exceed a threshold.

The highest levels of lead, at 11,300 parts per billion, or ppb, were detected at the La Petite Academy, in San Diego. These levels were 2,200 times the amount of lead that California allows in child care center drinking water.

“Despite all the work we’ve done to try to protect kids from the debilitating impacts of lead exposure through their drinking water and elsewhere, test results released today show we have failed to prevent harm to the most vulnerable Californians,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California government affairs.

Because of lead’s neurotoxicity and potential to cause lifelong harm, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, recommends that lead in water not exceed 1 ppb.

Limited lead testing

According to a 2018 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, only 11 states and two cities require licensed child care facilities to test their drinking water for lead. More than 4 million American children spend at least part of the day at child care centers.

Although California requires licensed child care centers to test their drinking water for lead, licensed family child care homes, which number over 20,000, do not have to test their water for lead, and K-12 schools have conducted only limited testing.

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