U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark were in Boston Monday to announce $58 million in funding to replace lead pipes in Massachusetts' schools and childcare facilities.
Lead exposure in children has been linked to brain damage, slowed developmental growth, and learning and behavioral problems.
Clark said that access to clean water shouldn’t be barred by income or location.
“It is our most basic human need, and access is among our most basic human rights,” she said. “It doesn’t change from zip code to zip code, it’s universal.”
That sentiment was echoed by Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water at the EPA.
“We at the EPA don’t believe that our work will ever be done until we can ensure that everyone — every single person in this country — has access to clean safe water, regardless of where they live, the color of [their] skin, or the money in their pocket,” Fox said.
An estimated 444 Massachusetts young children showed evidence of lead poisoning in 2021, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. Massachusetts requires children to receive blood tests for lead content multiple times by the age of 3, and the DPH tracks the data from those screenings annually. The data show about 1.2% of children had elevated blood lead levels in 2021 — and that the rate has hovered around that number for four years.
While lead paint in older homes is the primary source of childhood lead exposure, multiple speakers said the lead pipes that carry water to schools and childcare facilities are also a major problem.
Massachusetts has no law requiring schools to test or improve lead levels in their drinking water. Instead, since 2016, schools have been testing on a voluntary basis, with nearly 1,300 schools and 500 childcare facilities participating in the program.
In 2019, 248 of the schools that volunteered to test found high levels of lead in their drinking water, a number that Warren told GBH News is nowehere near good enough.
“The amount of lead that is good for our babies to drink, for our toddlers for kids at this school drinking fountain is zero,” she said.
The $58 million granted to Massachusetts is part of a $15 billion nationwide effort, called the Voluntary School and Child Care Lead Testing and Reduction Grant program, that aligns with President Joe Biden’s agenda to deliver clean water to all communities.
Original story HERE.