Back To School: New Toolkit To Help Get The Lead Out from School Drinking Water

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Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center

Trenton – With “back to school” in full swing this week, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center today offered a new toolkit to help parents, teachers, and administrators Get the Lead Out of schools’ drinking water.  Citing a lack of accurate information on lead contamination in water and how schools should prevent it, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center encouraged parents and teachers to put the new toolkit on their “back to school” reading list.

“Our kids deserve safe drinking water at school,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center.  “We want to give parents, teachers, and school administrators the tools they need to ‘get the lead out.’”

More and more schools are finding lead in their water. All New Jersey school districts were required to conduct testing of all water outlets in schools and submit them to the Department of Education by July 13, 2017, but not all school districts have released their test results or acknowledged whether they occurred or not. An independent analysis conducted by Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center earlier this summer found that 55% of the taps in Bergen County schools with fully available data had lead contamination. The problem is not isolated to New Jersey: in Massachusetts, tests found lead in schools’ water at roughly half of 67,000 taps tested.

Moreover, such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg. As noted in the toolkit, most schools built before 2014 have plumbing and/or fixtures that can leach lead into drinking water.  And at some older schools, the service lines that bring water from the mains in the street into buildings are made entirely of lead.

“Many parents had a new water bottle on their ‘back to school’ shopping list,” said O’Malley.  “What about the water that goes in that bottle?  We’ve got to make sure our kids have safe drinking water at school.”

Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center’s toolkit includes a factsheet, a video, sample materials to press for action, and links to additional resources, especially on technical questions like proper testing.

School districts are largely left to address lead contamination on their own, as current state law does little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. The current testing conducted by school districts was mandated by the state, but legislation to create an ongoing system of lead testing has only passed the State Assembly, and there is a clear need for more state funds to remediate schools that have documented lead contamination.  Earlier this year, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center gave New Jersey a grade of C- in addressing this threat to children’s health.

“Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said O’Malley. “We strongly recommend parents get the facts about lead contamination of drinking water and how to prevent it.”


Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center  is dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.