Keep Lead Out of School Drinking Water

Target: Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon

Goal: Lead test the water in all Oregon schools.

Two elementary schools in Portland, OR, were found to have massive amounts of lead in their drinking water – up to 33 and 53 parts per billion, respectively. In comparison, the lead contamination at Flint, MI, was 27 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that there is no safe level of lead consumption, particularly for children. It had been 15 years since the district tested its water for lead. Officials in the school district knew there was lead in the water by March 31, but no action was taken until May 25. Call on Governor Brown to support mandatory lead testing for all Oregon schools and keep students there safe.

Lead is extremely toxic to young children. A dose of lead that would have a limited impact on an adult would have a serious impact on a child. Ingesting lead can harm the central and peripheral nervous systems. Lead has been linked to a host of negative health effects including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, weakened blood cell function, and hearing damage.

Lead contamination is a common problem. It is not only those two schools that have been affected. In a recent EPA study of lead in schools, 350 of the schools and daycare centers they tested had levels of lead above the legally accepted 15 parts per billion. If testing isn’t done, then officials can inaccurately assume that their school is safe or fail to act once a danger has been discovered. The Portland district manager for health and safety, Andrew Fridley, was so dismissive of one parent’s concern about lead levels that he mockingly referred to her as “zero lead in water lady” in emails.

To make Oregon’s schools a safe place to learn the state will have to implement required testing for contaminants. Urge Governor Brown to mandate this testing and protect Oregon students from lead poisoning.


Dear Governor Brown,

Oregon must make lead testing a requirement in its schools. Two Portland elementary schools have recently been shown to have 33 and 53 lead parts per billion in their drinking water. To compare, the water in Flint, MI, had 27 parts per billion. Lead is highly toxic, especially to children. Protect the children in your state and make sure the places where they learn are safe.

Part of the reason that the lead contamination was so high was that the district had not been tested in 15 years. Without testing, officials can falsely assume that their school is safe or cover it up if it isn’t. Officials at the Portland elementary schools knew about the lead poisoning over a month before they took action. The district’s manager for health and safety was so dismissive of parents’ concern about lead levels that he mockingly referred to one parent as the “zero lead in water lady.”

Misperceptions like these can have serious consequences for the children attending school. Lead poisoning has a greater impact on children than it does on adults. This poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, weakened blood cell function, and hearing damage.

Many lawmakers in your state already support a new law mandating lead testing in schools. State lawmakers Sen. Michael Dembrow and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer have considered bringing this requirement before the state legislature. I appeal to you, as the executive branch of your state, to make this legislation a final success.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Carlos Sillero

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