California Gov. Signs Bill to Make Sure Drinking Water is Safe for Kids

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, September 23, 2004

OAKLAND - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law groundbreaking legislation, sponsored by EWG, to ensure that California's drinking water standards are strong enough to protect children.

Assembly Bill 2342, carried by Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and sponsored by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), requires Cal-EPA to give special consideration to infants and children and other sensitive populations when reviewing and revising public health goals (PHGs) for drinking water. PHGs, which are formulated by the state Office of Environmental Health Assessment, are the scientific basis for setting California drinking water standards.

The bill passed with unusually strong bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature. For the first time, it directs state health officials to use infants' body weight and water consumption levels in setting drinking water health goals.

In the last decade, extensive research has shown that infants and children are far from being just smaller versions of adults. Not only do children often metabolize compounds differently than adults, taking significantly longer to clear toxins out of their bodies, they are more susceptible to long-term damage since toxins can interfere with proper brain and organ development.

Infants and children are also exposed daily to greater amounts of drinking water contaminants because they drink several times more water in proportion to their body weight. Despite the clear evidence that children need more protective standards, more than eighty percent of the state's drinking water risk assessments have used the average body weight of an adult male - about 180 pounds - in their calculations.

"This is a big step forward in protecting California's children from toxic chemicals in drinking water," said EWG Analyst Renee Sharp, who provided extensive input and testimony on the bill, and rallied support from more than a dozen environmental and public health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In addition to requiring the state to use infant body weight and drinking water consumption rates in its health risk assessments, AB 2342 encourages the agency to prioritize review and revision of contaminants that pose health threats to children. AB 2342 also directs the agency to consider the effects of exposure to multiple contaminants in developing drinking water standards.


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