By Matthew Rodriguez
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor

Assemblymember Chris Holden advocated for his Assembly Bill 100 that would further regulate the amount of lead in drinking water during an Aug. 26 web conference.

“California has been working to reduce residents’ exposure to lead, yet it is still leaching into our drinking water through faucets and fixtures,” Holden said. “We’re hopeful that this bill, AB 100, will be released from Senate appropriations today and make it to the governor’s desk for signature so we can keep Californians safe from the harmful effects of lead.”

The bill has received support from Clean Water Action; the Environmental Working Group; the Western Center on Law and Poverty; and CALPIRG, a statewide advocacy organization.

“Our message is clear,” said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG state director. “Lead in our drinking water is dangerous for our communities, especially children. We need to do everything we can to get the lead out.”

AB 100 aims to reduce lead leaching in endpoint devices, such as faucets, to no more than 1 microgram — five times better than the current industry standard.

In a water distribution system, corrosion of pipes and solder causes the dissolution of these materials. The metals then leach into the water supply, which causes lead and copper concentrations in the water to increase

If passed, AB 100 would be the strictest lead leaching law in the nation. As students return to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic, participants of the press conference focused on the negative effects lead can have on children.

“As we learned from the pandemic, many school buildings are old and have not been adequately maintained with adequate ventilation or plumbing,” said Dr. Alice Kuo, UCLA chief of pediatric medicine.

Lead is a highly toxic metal sometimes found in older water pipes. Lead exposure can damage the brains and central nervous system of young children. Even at low levels, lead exposure is dangerous to children. It can cause IQ loss, learning disabilities, behavioral problems and impaired hearing. When exposed to lead, adults can have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and kidney and nervous system problems.   

“We know toxic lead exposure is not good for children’s brains,” Kuo said. “Lead poisoning still happens though in the United States. And after the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, we’re more aware of the importance of removing all sources of lead that children could be exposed to.”

In the past several years, California has worked to reduce lead exposure in schools and child centers. In 2017, the state Legislature passed AB 746, which required testing of public schools tap water. In 2018, Holden authored AB 2370, which expanded the required testing to child care centers.

In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 365, which made California the first state to legally recognize the human right to water. However, advocates such as Clean Water Action Policy Director Andria Ventura said they believe that with faucets leaching lead, California is failing to fulfill its obligation to provide clean drinking water.

“We cannot fulfill this obligation if we have lead coming out of our taps,” she said.