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January 10, 2017

MADIGAN URGES GOVERNOR TO SIGN LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM LEAD IN DRINKING WATER

Legislation Requires Lead Testing in Schools and Day Cares Throughout Illinois

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan applauded the Illinois Senate’s approval of legislation to protect children from drinking water contaminated by lead and urged Gov. Rauner to sign the bill into law. The legislation was initiated by Madigan and the Illinois Environmental Council last spring in response to alarming levels of lead found in water in many Chicago and suburban school districts. Lead exposure can have serious lifelong developmental impacts on children.

Senate Bill 550, sponsored by Rep. Sonya Harper and Sen. Heather Steans, unanimously passed the Senate 55-0 earlier today.

“Testing our children’s drinking water for lead is a commonsense and inexpensive way to protect them from the serious and lifelong developmental impacts of lead exposure,” Madigan said. “I applaud the many school districts that have already conducted voluntary testing and taken steps to shut off or fix contaminated sources of water. This legislation will ensure all Illinois schools and day cares prevent lead exposure to infants and children.”

“This bill is an important first step that will identify lead contaminated infrastructure in Illinois, especially in schools and day cares. Our end goal is removal of lead from our drinking water system to ensure safe water for all Illinoisans,” said Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, which can lead to irreversible brain damage and lifelong intellectual, emotional and behavioral consequences. The Illinois Department of Public Health has found that Illinois has rates of lead exposure significantly higher than the national average.

Despite Illinois’ lead poisoning rates and the high risks posed by drinking water contaminated with lead, state law does not require lead testing of drinking water in schools and day care centers.

In the last year, some Illinois schools that have voluntarily tested drinking water for lead had alarming results. According to media reports, Chicago Public Schools tested approximately 12,000 water fountains and kitchen sinks in over 500 schools and found elevated levels of lead in about 3 percent of the fixtures tested. Test results from other school districts, including Glenview and St. Charles, also revealed some drinking water sources with elevated lead levels.

The bill would require that all schools built before 2000 with pre-kindergarten through fifth grade classes test all water sources used for drinking or food preparation for lead. The measure also requires certain day care facilities to test water sources for lead.

The legislation also requires an inventory be taken of all lead service lines in the state that pose the risk of increased lead exposure in drinking water. Additionally, the bill would increase public notification of nearby water main construction projects that could impact water lines and increase the presence of lead in water.

The lead tests, which cost an average of $15 per drinking water sample, would provide schools and day care centers with the information needed to quickly take simple steps to protect children from dangerous lead exposure. For example, water fountains with elevated lead levels can be turned off or flushed to address the problem. In addition to allowing schools and day cares to protect children immediately, the test results would guide schools and day cares in formulating a plan to prevent high lead levels from reoccurring.

“This issue is extremely personal to me because I am the parent of a child who attends a Chicago school that tested positive for lead-contaminated water,” said state Rep. Sonya Harper (D-Chicago). “I believe all Illinois parents have the right to know what is in their children’s water, and I look forward to this measure being signed into law.”

“Parents have the right to know whether the water in their children’s schools is contaminated by lead, and this legislation is a step toward giving parents that information so they can ensure that their children are protected,” said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago). “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to send this legislation to the governor’s desk.”

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