Tests have revealed unsafe levels of lead in water fountains and faucets in schools in San Diego and Los Angeles, prompting legislators to consider measures that would require all California schools to test for lead, according to CALmatters.
The article cites California Department of Health data showing that 2% of children tested have elevated levels of lead, but in some areas of the state, such as Alameda County and Fresno, the rates were much higher.
One bill, AB 1316, would have the state health department encourage doctors to ask families more questions about their children’s exposure to lead, while another bill, AB 746, would require all schools to test for lead and make repairs or shut down the water source.
Ever since dangerous levels of lead were detected in Flint, MI's water source — leading to a state of emergency, lawsuits and criminal charges — communities across the country have increased efforts to test water in schools and replace faucets and sinks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe blood lead levels in children. Exposure to lead in a child’s environment often goes undetected, but can contribute to behavior problems, developmental delays, learning disabilities and decreased bone and muscle growth.
In addition, a 2015 study appearing in the Harvard Educational Review showed elevated blood lead levels in a child’s early years can contribute to lower performance on standardized tests in third and fourth grade.
Under a current California Water Boards program, any school can have its water tested at no cost, and AB 746 would reimburse districts for any costs associated with testing if it passed. But according to Rep. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the sponsor of that bill, only about 1,000 of the 13,000 schools in the state have asked for the testing. In an article for The Washington Post, a Virginia Tech faculty member who studies lead contamination, suggests that ongoing testing is necessary to get accurate readings.