About 1,700 California licensed day care centers — about a quarter of the nearly 7,000 tested so far — are serving drinking water with levels above acceptable limits, according to data obtained from the state by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. Are.
Susan Little, a senior activist with the environmental group, said it is “really alarming” that infants and preschoolers in California face this risk in places where their parents believe they are safe. Lead has been shown to cause permanent damage to the brain and other parts of the nervous system in children.
“Young children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead because their bodies absorb it … just like calcium,” Little said, “and this lead can affect their development and their brain function and potentially their behavior as well as causing permanent damage to other. more serious things because lead has been linked to cancer and other harms to health”.
Elk Grove’s Maryhill Elementary and Middle School on Calvin Road is ninth on a list of 13 child care centers with drinking water levels of 500 parts per billion or higher, Little said. California mandates that lead levels in water used for drinking or food preparation must not exceed 5 parts per billion.
Maryhill School made the list because one in 15 or so taps used for drinking water or food preparation had lead levels of 890 parts per billion, 178 times the state limit.
In a statement emailed to The Sacramento Bee, Maryhill officials said the safety and well-being of the children in their care is their top priority, so they turned off the faucet and notified parents of those consequences and measures. which they had done. He said a nearby classroom was not used amid the pandemic, and remains closed.
“The affected tap was not used because the classroom closed more than three years ago, and the water our students drink comes from the kitchen tap, which has performed well,” he said.
Taps at more than 100 Sacramento-area facilities exceed limits
Although Elk Grove’s Maryhill School was known to have a high concentration of lead in one of its faucets, a database maintained by The Bee shows that more than 100 day care centers in the Sacramento area had at least one faucet that was lead. exceeded the limit permitted by State.
According to Little, California is one of only 11 states in the country that requires licensed daycare centers to test drinking water for lead, which puts many children at risk of contamination.
Topping the environmental group’s list of 13 child care centers with the highest rates of lead contamination was San Diego’s La Petite Academy, 10050 Carmel Mountain Road, with an intake level of 11,300 parts per billion, they said. He said the numbers were higher than those found in 2016 in Flint, Michigan, when state and federal officials advised residents there not to drink the water and declared a state of emergency because of contamination levels.
Courtney McKenzie, a spokeswoman for Learning Care Group, which runs La Petite Academy, said this faucet and another with a lead level of 787 ppb had not been used before the pandemic. He did not specify when he was laid off. After testing, he said, the company removed the sources from those faucets and posted a notice of the results in a common area.
“The Learning Care Group is committed to the health and safety of our school communities,” company officials said in the statement. “Going beyond state guidelines, in August 2022, we tested all 27 potential water sources at this location, including those that are not actively in use.”
For the top 13 list, Little’s team cited only the faucets with the highest lead levels in each facility.
Little said testing began in California-licensed child care centers in 2020, but the pandemic slowed the process. He said his organization lobbied the California Department of Social Services (DSS) to release data on completed tests, and that they obtained information on 6,866 of the more than 14,000 licensed operators in the state.
Children absorb half of the lead they eat
Parents should ask for information about whether their licensed child care provider has completed the required tests, Little said, and if they haven’t, force them to do so.
If the facility does not conform to the first test, the provider may replace faucets or other fixtures known to raise lead levels and provide a new sample the same day. State Data provides the results of both tests.
If a standpipe fails inspection, state regulations require facilities to stop using it until it is fixed. DSS provides guidelines How should companies ensure access to adequate water sources? In some cases, providers may be eligible to receive funding from state and federal agencies to pay for lead testing.
“Children … may spend most of their waking hours at a licensed daycare,” Little said. “As a result, they are often consuming most of their water and calories at these centers, so a baby who is on formula will primarily drink their calories from water-based formula that … is usually tap water from that center.” mixed with”.
The Environmental Working Group worked with Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, in 2018 to develop legislation requiring child care centers to be tested. Known as Assembly Bill 2370 and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom nearly five years ago, it ensured that child care centers were required to use standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the timing and size of samples. Gotta do it, said Little.
This was important, he said, because the state’s elementary schools were previously required to test, but the looser requirements allowed them to do things that would reduce lead levels in samples. And, because the EPA action level was 15 parts per billion, many schools didn’t report lead levels between the EPA number and the state limit of 5 ppb.
Holden is now sponsoring AB 249 to require schools to test according to the guidelines that day care centers must follow. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water.
Tasha Stoiber, scientist at the Environmental Working Group, said: “Children absorb up to half of the lead they swallow, and malnourished children absorb it faster. … Even at low levels, lead exposure in children can cause developmental Delays, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, and disturbances in blood cell function occur.
These tests show how common lead contamination is in drinking water, Stoiber and Little said, and that state leaders must act quickly to protect the health of California children both in schools and child care homes. .