Rep. Pascrell Sponsors Bill to Fund Lead Testing at Schools and Daycare Centers
WASHINGTON - U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) today announced new legislation that would help schools and childcare centers test their drinking water for potential lead contamination. The bill, a companion to a bill being authored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), would establish a new federal grant program for childcare centers and schools that choose to test for lead.
“From Flint to Newark we have seen how critical it is to protect our children from drinking contaminated water," Rep. Pascrell said. "All Americans, and especially kids in our schools and childcare facilities, deserve access to clean water. Our job is to make it easier for the facilities to conduct needed testing by providing funding sources. Exposure at any level is unacceptable."
Earlier this month, 30 Newark Public Schools were forced to shut down their drinking water after elevated lead levels were discovered. Other school districts in New Jersey could be at risk due to older water infrastructure. While some school districts, including Paterson, test their drinking water, they are not required to do so by law. Under the bill, daycare centers and schools would apply for federal funding through the grant program annually.
Given these rise in lead contamination discoveries, Rep. Pascrell has been working with Sen. Schumer to introduce legislation that would provide grants to childcare centers and schools to test their water for lead contamination. As a former mayor of Paterson, Rep. Pascrell understands the need for resources and funding to encourage communities to take these precautions. This bill will create a new $100 million federal grant program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would help school districts and child care centers test their drinking water for potential lead contamination.
A similar grant program was originally part of a 1988 bill called the Lead Contamination Control Act, but the legislative text outlining the program was struck down by the courts due to a drafting error.
Rep. Pascrell has also been working with the Passaic Valley Water Commission, which provides water to several school districts in northern New Jersey, to ensure they are doing all that they can to educate the public when lead levels become elevated. Rep. Pascrell wrote a letter to PVWC in February to encourage, among other things, increased lead testing and notification of free lead testing.
Since 2012, the CDC has used a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children who have blood-lead levels that are much higher than most other children and are considered dangerous. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lead is much more harmful to children than adults because it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains. According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, childhood exposure to lead has lifelong consequences, including decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays and behavioral problems. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Some health organizations, like the National Center for Environmental Health in a 2012 study, argue that no safe blood-lead threshold in children has yet been identified. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10-20 percent of the lead that poisons children comes from tap water.