New rules don’t go far enough to protect Oregon’s littlest kids from the dangers of lead

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Environment Oregon

SalemThis afternoon, the Early Learning Council will be voting on rules for lead testing and mitigation in licensed and regulated child care facilities. Among other things, the new rules would require child care facilities test their water for lead within the next six months, then once every six years. If passed, the rules would also require an action level “at or above 15 parts per billion” of lead.

Environment Oregon State Director Celeste Meiffren-Swango released the following statement in response:

“It’s disheartening that in this day in age, in the wealthiest country in the world, many of our children are regularly drinking water that has lead in it—a known, potent neurotoxin—despite the fact that we have effective, affordable ways to prevent it from happening. The rules being voted on today by the Early Learning Council don’t go far enough to protect Oregon’s littlest kids from the dangers of lead.

Environment Oregon, along with several other environmental and public health organizations have called on the Early Learning Council to set a strong, health-based action level of 1 part per billion to prevent Oregon’s kids from being exposed to any level of lead in their drinking water at child care facilities, where they go to learn and play every day.

Unfortunately, the new rules set an action level of 15 parts per billion. While this is slightly stronger than the originally proposed action level of 20 parts per billion, it is insufficient. Setting a mitigation level at anything above 1 part per billion leaves kids vulnerable to lead exposure. The science is clear that there is no safe level of lead, and that even low levels of lead can cause permanent damage to our children including damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

We are disappointed that the Early Learning Council didn’t seize the opportunity to propose and pass rules that fully protect our kids. It is our hope that these rules are simply their first—and not final— step in the effort to protect Oregon’s kids from this potent public health threat.

We also hope that the child care facilities who are charged with taking care of Oregon’s children will take it upon themselves to prevent lead exposure by installing filters that are certified to remove lead on all taps used for drinking and cooking, and eventually removing lead service lines and lead bearing faucets and fixtures from their water delivery systems. Our children’s future is certainly worth the investment.”

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Environment Oregon is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.