Are Oregon’s schoolchildren drinking lead-laden water?

NOTE: Please see our updated Q&A to learn answers to common questions about the issue here.

Anyone who interacts with a young child can see how quickly they learn. Kids absorb everything around them. But if there is the toxic heavy metal lead in their drinking water, what does that mean for their future? What does it mean for Oregon?

As of March 2016, lead has been found in the drinking water of nearly a dozen Oregon Schools, some with levels up to twelve times the maximum amount allowed by current regulations (15 ppb). Just a couple days ago, lead was discovered in the drinking fountains at Beaverton Middle School. We know lead is harmful to children’s development–to their very ability to learn–yet Oregon law doesn’t require schools to test drinking water for lead contamination.

Lead is a persistent toxic metal that occurs naturally, but has also in the past been added to gasoline, house paint, plumbing fixtures and other products. In the case of the schools, lead is likely found in the solder joining water pipes or in plumbing fixtures. That lead can leach into water as it sits in the pipes–especially if that water is hot–and then travel through pipes towards classrooms or drinking fountains.

Did your kid’s school end up on the list?

Exposure to lead creates health risks in both children and adults, but young children are more vulnerable to low levels of exposure. The U.S. EPA tells us that there is no safe level of lead; even low levels of lead in a child’s bloodstream have been linked to nervous system damage, learning disabilities and more. Lead can also accumulate in the body over time.

Here at OEC, we’re reaching out to members of Congress in order to secure funding for regular testing of drinking water in schools. As leading advocates for toxic-free environments and clean water, our lawmakers look to us to keep them informed. This is a critical public health issue–each of Oregon’s children deserves the chance to fulfill their full potential.

As a parent, you can take steps to make sure the pipes in your home aren’t leaching lead into your drinking water. Call your water provider and ask them about lead testing, or get a free testing kit from


Girl drinking on water fountain outdoor close up

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