Children in child care centers, family child care homes, and group child care centers across Illinois may be at risk for lead poisoning. The Illinois Department of Public Health says, “While great steps have been taken during the past two decades to reduce the levels of lead in water, lead may still get into water from older metal faucets, taps, or pipes.”
What the New Law Involves
Recent legislation (Public Act 99-0922) now requires lead testing of water for all child care facilities that serve children ages 0-6. The law applies to facilities constructed on or before January 1, 2000. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has developed new licensing rules, as “health experts have determined that there is NO acceptable level of lead contamination for children.”
The Environmental Defense Fund says, “Even at very low levels, lead can impair brain development, contributing to learning and behavioral problems as well as lower IQs. While national attention on lead in drinking water has spurred action in schools, few states have addressed lead in water in child care settings – even though these facilities serve children at younger, more vulnerable ages.”
Immediate Mitigation Steps
Child care centers should immediately stop using lead-contaminated sinks and fixtures, and instead use:
Clean bottled water (having 2.00 ppb or less lead content)
Point-of-Use filters, approved by National Sanitation Federation (NSF)
Water purified by reverse osmosis
Children in early child care facilities are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States, and they require the most protection. It’s our responsibility as a nation to ensure the safety and well being of all children that spend time at a child care facility.
The Institute's Environmental Health Work
At the Institute For Childhood Preparedness, we are all too familiar with restricted access to clean drinking water. We have certainly seen this first-hand during our disaster recovery work with the National Environmental Health Association and the Region II Head Start Association in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of March 2019, Puerto Rico was experiencing a severe drought and water shortages. In fact, some communities were experiencing 48-72 hours without drinking water. Child care centers were unable to cook or clean, which led to closures and limited hours of operation. Lack of fresh drinking water also leaves children exposed to dangerous contaminants in their homes. The Institute is working to increase the visibility of environmental vulnerabilities of early childhood programs and facilities in the Caribbean.
We are fortunate to serve as the head contractor to the Region II Head Start Association. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is funding this important work in partnership with the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).
Follow our journey through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Facebook.