Reports of dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water of childcare centers in California have been pouring in, leaving parents and officials alarmed over the potential health risk for children. At the East San Jose day care center, Kidango-Linda Vista Center, tests ordered by the state have found lead levels 120 times the legal limit allowed for licensed daycares, according to a San José Spotlight article.
Under Assembly Bill 2370, California requires licensed childcare centers built before 2010 to test their drinking water for lead. No amount of lead is considered safe for children, as even low levels of lead exposure can cause behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, and hearing problems, as reported by the EPA according to the San Jose Spotlight.
Fresno County has also reported concerning lead levels in the drinking water of dozens of childcare centers. In a recent Fresno Bee article, roughly one in four of the almost 7,000 tested centers exceeded the allowable amount of lead in their drinking water, with more than 70 centers in the county testing at or above the state's legal limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb).
"Young children are especially susceptible to the effects of lead because their bodies just absorb it ... as if it were calcium," stated Susan Little, a senior advocate for the Environmental Working Group, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. The repercussions of lead exposure at a young age can be long-lasting, leading to developmental damage, neurotoxicity, and even cancer.
While the state-required lead tests have uncovered dangerous levels at several centers, a significant number remain untested. Susan Little also warns that the current testing may only be the "tip of the iceberg" since family care homes and K-12 schools are not required to conduct comprehensive testing.
Assemblymember Chris Holden, who wrote Assembly Bill 2370, is now introducing another bill, AB 249, to the State Assembly Appropriations Committee, which would require K-12 schools to test their water for lead. Little emphasizes the importance of addressing lead exposure in children, as it could greatly affect their lives, health, and potential. According to a San José Spotlight interview with Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist Tasha Stoiber, infants who rely on formula mixed with water are particularly vulnerable since their small bodies consume a significant amount of water.
For childcare centers found to have excess lead in their drinking water, the state requires them to immediately cease using any faucets or water outlets with elevated lead levels until the fixture is replaced and retested. The California Department of Social Services has been tasked with overseeing these efforts. In Fresno County, some of the childcare facilities with the highest lead levels, such as King's Corner Childcare and Fresno EOC Franklin Head Start, recorded lead levels that were at least 26 times above the legal limit.
Concerned parents can consult healthcare providers regarding blood lead tests for their children if exposure is suspected. The Centers for Disease Control advises families to talk to their healthcare providers about these tests, which can be covered by many private insurance policies and for children enrolled in Medicaid, by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.