With New Laws, California Leads the Nation in Protecting Kids from Lead Exposure

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law three landmark proposals to protect California’s children from exposure to lead.

With Brown’s signature, the state will now require licensed day care centers to test their tap water for lead, that doctors tell parents about blood lead test standards, and that state agencies provide more information to the public about blood lead test rates, sources of lead that poison children, and how the lead is removed or abated.

Brown vetoed a fourth bill, AB 2122, that would have ensured that at-risk toddlers receive blood lead tests. He said the measure was premature, citing the department’s internal efforts to improve testing.

The bills were sponsored and cosponsored by the Environmental Working Group, and all passed the legislature unanimously.

“We thank Gov. Brown for giving the issue of lead poisoning the action it deserves,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for EWG. “Last year, we got a new law for testing of lead at schools. This year, child care centers got the same attention.”

“There is no safe level of lead and the neurological damage it can cause in young children can last a lifetime,” added Allayaud. “That is why it is so critical the state take these additional steps to protect California’s most vulnerable population from further exposure to lead.”

EWG-sponsored lead bills signed into law include:

  • AB 2370, by Assemblymember Chris Holden, requires licensed child care centers to test their tap water for lead contamination. If high lead levels are found, the centers must find an alternate source of safe drinking water. The centers must also provide parents with information about lead risks and testing.  This bill couples with an EWG-sponsored budget appropriation of $5 million to fund water testing and remediation at centers.
  • SB 1041, by State Sen. Connie Leyva requires the Department of Public Health to publicly report the rates of blood lead testing among children enrolled, and not enrolled, in Medi-Cal. Doctors must also inform parents about child blood lead testing standards.
  • SB 1097, by Sen. Ben Hueso, requires the Department of Public Health to make public reports on county-level childhood lead testing, exposure rates, the local sources of lead related to individual lead-poisoning cases, and if those sources have been removed or abated

EWG promoted the above measures with the assistance of broad coalitions of organizations and supporters, as well as research conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund on drinking water testing in child care centers.

AB 2122 and SB 1041 were additionally cosponsored by the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, and strongly supported by the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“AB 2370 is a huge win for children and families across the state. We are relieved to know that child care centers will be testing their drinking water for lead. If our youngest children are ingesting lead at day care their families have a right to know. This will help keep our youngest children safe and healthy,” said Assembly Member Chris Holden, D-Pasadena.

“SB 1097 will help prevent childhood lead exposure, and will make clear where the lead hazards are, what the hazards look like, and how the lead is affecting kids near it,” said Senator Ben Hueso, D-San Diego.

“I would like to thank Governor Brown for signing SB 1041 into law and ensuring that both health care providers and parents are fully informed about the risks and effect of lead exposure and of the requirement that all children enrolled in Medi-Cal be tested for lead. The passage of SB 1041 validates how important education about lead safety is for our families and communities in California,” said Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino.

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