Thousands of California child care centers are failing to comply with a state law that requires expanded lead testing, potentially putting the health of children across the state at risk. According to KPBS, more than 7,800 child care facilities, representing 54% of California's child care centers, have yet to test their drinking waterfor lead contamination, with San Diego and Imperial counties being among the worst offenders.
For the first time in California history, a 2018 law required child care centers to test their drinking water for lead and submit the results to a state-approved laboratory by January 1st this year. Failure to comply with the law's testing deadline can result in citations from the California Department of Social Services (DSS) and can ultimately lead to the suspension or revocation of a facility's license. However, despite the consequences, thousands of child care centers have yet to take action, raising concerns for children's health and well-being.
Susan Little, a senior advocate for California government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), expressed concern regarding the potential exposure of lead in untested facilities, stating that the results so far may be "just the tip of the iceberg." NBC San Diego reported that several child care centers in San Diego had lead levels in drinking water well above the legal limit, with one facility having levels more than 2,000 times the limit.
Lead is a neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous for children, as they are more susceptible to absorbing high levels of lead into their developing bodies. Health experts warn that even low levels of lead exposure can lead to serious issues, including cognitive disorders, decreased intelligence, and organ system failures. The fact that so many California child care centers are ignoring mandated lead testing is therefore deeply troubling and poses a significant risk to the children attending these facilities.
Although the law has prompted over 6,000 child care centers to carry out lead testing, an inewsource analysis reveals that thousands still remain untested, with an additional 28,000 family child care homes being exempt from the law and able to go entirely unmonitored. The existence of facilities that remain untested is cause for concern as it leaves an unknown number of children exposed to hazardous lead levels in their drinking water, posing a potentially serious threat to their health.
Some efforts have been made to promote lead testing for children, with various resources available in both San Diego and Imperial counties. Pediatricians and doctors treating children can order lead tests upon request, and parents will be provided with a questionnaire to determine if testing is necessary. Furthermore, facilities that have tested drinking water and found lead levels higher than the state limit of 5 parts per billion are required to cease using the affected fountains and faucets, providing an alternative potable water source for both children and staff.