Today Governor Scott signed into law a landmark bill protecting against lead in school drinking water. The move is being celebrated by environmental advocates across the state. “There’s really only one kind of water we should be giving our kids in schools and child care centers, and that’s unleaded,” commented Paul Burns, Executive Director of VPIRG. “This new law moves us much closer to that goal.”
Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and exposure to even very low levels can result in lifelong, irreversible consequences. Children are especially susceptible, and lead exposure can cause attention disorders, loss of IQ, delayed learning, and behavioral, kidney, and hearing problems. S.40 was originally introduced after a statewide testing pilot program found elevated lead levels in the water at several Vermont schools.
The law requires testing of water taps in all schools and child care centers in the state and mandates remediation for any tap that tests at or above 4 parts per billion of lead. All testing must be completed statewide by December 31, 2020.
Environmental advocates, including VPIRG, had originally pushed for the action level to be set at 1 part per billion, in keeping with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even so, the law represents the strongest standard of lead protection for children in the country. “Our children deserve to go to school or daycare without being poisoned by lead lurking in water fountains,” said Jen Duggan, Vice President and Director of CLF Vermont. “The only safe level of lead is zero, and Vermont is leading the nation in making sure that the health of our children comes first.”