Calif. Regulators Move To Reduce Lead in Drinking Water at Child Care Centers

SACRAMENTO – State regulators announced steps on Wednesday to reduce the risks of lead exposure faced by young children in day care facilities across California.

In a public hearing, the State Water Resources Board agreed to adopt a goal of reducing lead in centers’ drinking water to no more than 1 part per billion, or ppb. The board’s decision represents the toughest action in the country to date on this issue.

Members of the water board did not vote to approve the health-protective lead goal during the meeting but did instruct its staff to include it in the recommendations and protocols the board will send to the Department of Social Services, which oversees licensed child care facilities and will administer the lead testing program.

More than 700,000 California children are enrolled in state-certified child care centers, which are mostly housed in privately owned buildings. Since 2017, state law has required lead testing of water in public schools and child care centers based in schools, but it does not cover privately run child care centers.

“Lead exposure at the earliest, most vulnerable stages of a child’s life can have pronounced and lifelong consequences,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California government affairs. “The board’s action is a huge step forward in making sure we do everything possible to protect them from the risks of this potent neurotoxin. Parents shouldn’t have to worry if their children are at risk from lead-contaminated water and food when they drop them off at day care. This move will go a long way toward making sure that doesn’t happen."

“The board’s action sends a clear message to day care centers and the public,” said Laura Deehan, public health advocate with CalPIRG. “We need to get all the lead out of child care center water to make sure the formula and rice cereal being served in day care centers is unleaded, and that the littlest Californians are protected from this preventable health threat.”

Last year, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation – AB 2370, sponsored by EWG and authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden, D-Pasadena – requiring 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 bill was coupled with an EWG-sponsored budget appropriation of $5 million to fund water testing and remediation at centers.

The water board, in conjunction with the Department of Social Services, is responsible for developing the regulations under the new law. EWG, along with CalPIRG, Clean Water Action and other organizations and advocates, urged the water board to adopt the 1 ppb goal as part of the guidelines for the lead testing law.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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