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Lead Testing Drinking Water At Daycare Centers Is Essential Because The Youngest Are the Most Vulnerable to Lead’s Pernicious and Permanent Damages; Early Poisoning In Children Can Go Unnoticed Until Damage Is Irreversible

New Schumer Bill Will Provide Federal Grants For Daycare Centers & NYS Schools That Want to Test Drinking Water; Results Will Protect Students, Teachers, & Caregivers’ Health While Arming Experts With Key Info Needed To Address Potential Danger

Schumer: Every Drop Of Water Our Kids Sip Must Be Safe

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced new legislation that would help daycare centers and schools across New York State test their drinking water for potential lead contamination. Schumer’s bill would establish a new federal grant program for daycare centers and schools that choose to test for lead. Schumer pointed to the recently revealed high levels of lead found in more than 60 samples taken at two Ithaca schools, as evidence that lead is a significant problem in New York. Schumer explained that toxic lead-based pipes were not banned until 1986 and, as a result, any building whose water is supplied by pipes made before 1986 could contain lead. Schumer said our first priority should be keeping New York State children’s drinking water safe.

Schumer was joined by Dr. Phil Landrigan, a leading public health and lead poisoning expert and advocate for children’s health.

“The discovery of lead in drinking water in Ithaca’s school’s revealed a gaping hole in our lead testing protocols: we do not require or support the testing for lead in our schools or daycare centers. And because our youngest children are most vulnerable to the pernicious and permanent impacts of lead poisoning, we must provide grants and guidance to schools that want to test so we can prevent catastrophic neurological damage before it happens,” said Schumer. “It’s disturbing that Flint may have been just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic lead in our kids’ drinking water. In the year 2016, parents should not have to wonder if their child will sip poisoned water at daycare or at school. This legislation solves that problem by providing grants to centers and schools that want to test their water—and most will want to because the effects of lead poisoning on our children’s bodies and brains is catastrophic and irreversible. This plan can help to ensure that every drop of water that comes from a daycare center or school’s faucet or fountain should be pure, safe and clean. This new legislation helps make that goal crystal clear.”

Schumer said the recent lead contamination of the Ithaca School District in Upstate New York has made it clear that lead pipes could still be contaminating the water that runs from both independent and public water sources and, therefore, potentially tainting the water that our children are drinking. Specifically, higher levels of lead were found in more than 50 samples taken at the Caroline Elementary School, and in 11 samples taken at the Enfield Elementary School. The lead-water levels were found to be over 15 parts per billion (PPB), which is considered to be actionable by the federal EPA.

Given these rise in lead contamination discoveries, Schumer announced he will introduce legislation to provide grants to daycare centers and schools to test their water for lead contamination. Schumer said more resources and financial incentives must be provided to states like New York so communities can better protect their children – and workers – when they are at child care or at school. Specifically, Schumer’s legislation will create a new $100 million federal grant program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would help daycare centers and school districts across New York State test their drinking water for potential lead contamination.

This grant program was originally part of a 1988 bill called the Lead Contamination Control Act, but the legislative text outlining the program was struck down by the courts due to a drafting error.

Schumer said an annual grant program would encourage daycare centers and schools to apply for federal funding year-in and year-out: if a child care center school district did not apply for or receive funding to test for lead in that particular year, they could apply the following year. Schumer said this legislation would allow the federal government do more for daycare centers and schools that want to test for lead contamination and ensure the water that our children drink is safe for consumption.

Schumer said that, despite successful work over the past decade to reduce the number of children with blood-lead levels of at least 10 micrograms per deciliter across NY, there is still a large number of children now known to have blood-lead levels between 5-9 micrograms per deciliter. Since 2012, the CDC has used a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children who have blood-lead levels that are much higher than most other children and are considered dangerous. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains. According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, childhood exposure to lead has lifelong consequences, including decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays and behavioral problems. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause seizures, coma and even death.

Some health organizations, like the National Center for Environmental Health in a 2012 study, argue that no safe blood-lead threshold in children has yet been identified. For this reason, Schumer said it is disturbing that many child care centers and schools in New York could contain lead pipes because they were built before 1986 when these particular pipes were banned. In addition, at the time, “lead free” was defined as having solder and flux with no more than 8 percent lead in pipes. Many pipes and plumbing fixtures, such as spigots and faucets, were allowed to be manufactured with lead levels above 8 percent before 2014. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10-20 percent of the lead that poisons children comes from tap water.

Schumer said the severity of this situation has become more and more evident in New York as of late, particularly with the recent discovery of elevated levels of lead in the Ithaca City School district. Following the discovery, Schumer pushed the EPA to have lead experts assist the City of Ithaca. As a result, EPA announced that, following Schumer’s push, it would provide assistance to the Ithaca City School District, in order to help it determine the extent of the problem and how these high levels of lead can be mitigated.