Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water in Schools

WE NEED LEAD-FREE SCHOOLS — Lead is a potent neurotoxin that affects how our children develop, learn, and behave. Yet almost half of the more than 66,000 taps tested at Massachusetts public schools found some level of lead in the water.

Over the past few years, the tragedy of Flint, Michigan has stunned the nation. We watched the drinking water of an entire city become contaminated with lead. And now we know this toxic threat extends well beyond Flint to communities across the country. In fact, test results now show that lead is even contaminating drinking water in schools and pre-schools — flowing from thousands of fountains and faucets where our kids drink water every day.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that affects how our children develop, learn and behave. Yet almost half (49.09%) of the more than 66,000 taps tested at Massachusetts public schools by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection found some level of lead in the water. The vast majority of those lead levels were in concentrations greater than 1 part per billion.

Remediation for lead in schools requires many steps. Lead service lines, the largest single source of lead in water, must be removed. Faucets and drinking fountains need safe filters, and the water that schoolchildren drink every day should be tested regularly in order to ensure their safety. Schools deserve a health-based standard for action on lead contamination, one endorsed by the medical community.

MASSPIRG Education Fund’s Deirdre Cummings speaks at a press conference to release our new report on lead in drinking water.

The Problem

  • Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and exposure to lead has been shown to cause a variety of health problems. Myriad intellectual and behavioral disabilities, stunted growth, hearing loss and anemia have all been tied directly to lead exposure.
  • Children are especially at risk to lead poisoning and health problems related to lead exposure, as physical and behavioral effects have been shown to occur at lower exposure levels in younger people.
  • There is no safe level of lead exposure according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unlike some other toxins, lead accumulates in the body where it can reach dangerous levels after repeated exposure to even small amounts.
  • No effective treatment exists to ameliorate the permanent developmental effects of lead toxicity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prevention is the most efficient and most cost-effective means of treating lead poisoning.
  • Almost half (49.09%) of more than 66,000 taps tested throughout more than 200 Massachusetts towns found some levels of lead in the drinking water, recent testing results show. The vast majority of those lead levels were in concentrations greater than 1 part per billion (PPB), with almost a quarter of those testing at levels higher than 15PPB.

Data from Mass. DEP LCCA Testing Results, updated June 2.

Campaign to Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water in Schools

To ensure safe drinking water at our children’s schools, MASSPIRG Education Fund launched our “Get the Lead Out” campaign. Our goal is to convince local and state decision makers to adopt policies that proactively remove the threat of lead contamination from drinking water at schools, daycare centers and preschools.

Based on consultations with health and water engineering professionals, our policy agenda includes the following:

  1. Removing lead service lines
  2. Installing certified filters
  3. Requiring action whenever lead exceeds 1 part per billion in water
  4. Giving parents, school employees and communities full access to data and accountability on water testing and remediation efforts

MASSPIRG Education Fund is partnering with doctors, nurses, other health professionals, PTAs, teachers and school committees to elevate this issue as a serious threat to children’s health and arming decision makers with smart policy recommendations. 

For more information, contact Deirdre Cummings via email at or by phone at (617) 747-4319.


Issue updates

News Release | MASSPIRG | Public Health

It’s Time to Get the Lead out of School Drinking Water

MASSPIRG launches campaign to get lead out of drinking water at schools and day care centers.

> Keep Reading
Report | MASSPIRG EDUCATION FUND | Public Health

Get the Lead Out

New report highlights public health threats from drinking water in schools.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Statement on Unilever’s Decision to Disclose Fragrance Ingredients in Personal Care Products

MASSPIRG Education Fund applauds personal care product giant Unilever US, the maker of popular brands like Dove and Axe, for its announcement today that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in its personal care brands.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Calling for Big Action on Antibiotics in the Big Apple | Steve Blackledge

Last week, we were in New York City, where the United Nations General Assembly spent an entire day discussing antibiotic resistance, “the biggest threat to modern medicine.” Experts estimate that more than 700,000 people worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, including 23,000 in the United States—a number that could grow to 10 million globally by 2050.

> Keep Reading


Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Will Yum! Brands Commit to Better Antibiotic Stewardship Policies?

"Despite these successes, we need to re-double our efforts to counter new threats from superbugs that increasingly diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics. We will continue to ramp up our consumer awareness and advocacy campaigns to ensure that the superbugs don't win."

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

600 Health Professionals Urge More Major Restaurant Chains to Get Smart and Serve Meat Raised Without Antibiotics

Antibiotics are failing when doctors, nurses, and other health professionals need them most. Major restaurants can help save these lifesaving antibiotics by pushing suppliers to stop overusing them, as McDonald’s and Subway committed to do this year. That’s why almost 600  health professionals  - including 94 from Massachusetts - signed onto a letter urging more major restaurant chains to serve only meat not raised on routine antibiotics.

> Keep Reading

Cummings: A victory for all but the bacteria

Subway announcement is a big win for public health and represents a huge step toward preserving the effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Broad Array of Public Interest Groups Call on Subway, the World’s Largest Fast-Food Chain: Help Save Antibiotics!


A letter signed by nearly 60 public interest, medical, public health, environmental and animal welfare organizations was delivered to Subway Founder and CEO Fred DeLuca and Senior VP Suzanne Greco today, asking the restaurant giant to phase out meats produced with routine use of antibiotics (i.e. for growth promotion and disease prevention). As the largest fast-food chains in the world, Subway’s action on this issue would help tackle the growing health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

> Keep Reading


View AllRSS Feed

Support Us

Your tax-deductible donation supports MASSPIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and to stand up to the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support MASSPIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.