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.


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