Our Report Calls on NY to Get More Lead Out of School Drinking Water

We are excited to release our new report “5 is the New 15 about how strengthening the 2016 Safe School Drinking Water Act could protect more students and staff from lead exposure in school drinking water. At our press conference to release the report, we urged the State to reduce the action level for lead in public school drinking water from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 5 ppb which would make New York’s the biggest state with the most protective health standard in the nation. It would also bring us closer to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of less than 1 ppb. 

We were joined by New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, and representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Schools Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Senator Rivera and Assemblymember Gottfried recently submitted legislation to strengthen the law (S. 2122 / A. 160).  

In addition to lowering the lead action level, the report recommends increasing testing frequency for lead in public school drinking water, guaranteeing no-cost tap water, removing the possibility of exemption from testing, ensuring laboratory reports are disclosed publicly, and enforcing training for sample collectors. 

An analysis of lab reports from 90% of all NYS public school districts that were tested in  2016  found that an additional 63,428 drinking water outlets, or 17.2%, currently in use would need remediation under a more protective standard of 5 ppb compared to the current action level of 15 ppb.

Children spend much of their time in school and the levels of lead in school drinking fixtures present an alarming problem, as many schools have older plumbing fixtures that contain large amounts of lead. Lead poisoning can affect almost every organ and system in the human body, causing irreversible damage, and babies and young children are particularly at risk. 

All young children deserve a safe learning environment. It’s time to reevaluate our current law to protect kids and improve schools for the future. We are committed to working with Governor Cuomo, Senator Rivera, Assemblymember Gottfried, our partners and all our elected officials to make significant improvements to our school drinking water.