Bill to Protect Kids from Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water in WA Schools Introduced

Media Contacts

Seattle Times story finds elevated lead levels in Seattle schools

Environment Washington

OLYMPIA— A state bill to protect kids from lead in school drinking water has been introduced in Olympia by Rep. Gerry Pollet. HB 1860 would require schools to notify parents when tests detect lead levels at 1 part per billion (ppb), and to fix water outlets where lead levels reach 5 ppb or higher.

“Here in the 21st century, it is astounding that the water our children drink is sometimes laced with lead – a toxic substance that damages our children’s health, learning, and development,” said Bruce Speight, Environment Washington Director. “We thank Rep. Pollet for introducing this important bill to put our schools on track to get the lead out.”

Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that causes chronic problems: it lowers IQ and causes behavioral problems. Lead is especially damaging to kids – impairing how they learn, grow, and behave. Medical literature cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows more than 24 million children in America are at risk of losing IQ points due to low levels of lead.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Washington is failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water” said Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders). “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”

Lead contamination of school’s drinking water is widespread. A story in Sunday’s Seattle Times found that even in North Seattle’s more affluent neighborhoods “elevated lead levels appeared in tests at 36 percent of schools.”

The AAP has said no level of lead is safe for children and has called for an action level no higher than 1 ppb. The Pediatricians’ recommendation to reduce the action level to 1 ppb is based on medical research showing that levels of lead above 1 ppb will reduce children’s IQ.

“Inaction on lead exposure to our children is inexcusable,” said Rep. Pollet, who is on the UW School of Public Health faculty. “We need to test school water and adopt standards based on protecting our children, especially those in the poorest of schools.”

Over the past two years, Environment Washington has released analysis in 2017 of Washington State’s efforts to address lead drinking water contamination, which gave Washington State a failing grade; has worked with state legislators to improve Washington state statutes regarding lead in school drinking water; has issued a toolkit for parents to address local lead issues; and we are currently preparing an analysis of testing data that will show even more of a problem.

“Lead has been banned in paint since 1977 and in gasoline for nearly as long; it’s about time we ‘get the lead out’ of our drinking water systems too. Rep. Pollet’s bill is a key step toward assuring safe drinking water for Washington children at school,” concluded Speight.


Environment Washington is a statewide, membership-based environmental advocacy organization that works for clean air, clean water and open spaces.