San Jose day care had dangerous lead levels in water
Kidango-Linda Vista Center, a licensed day care facility in San Jose, is required to test its water for lead. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

    Recent reports ordered by the state reveal children at an East San Jose day care center were drinking lead-infected water.

    Kidango-Linda Vista Center is one of more than 14,000 licensed child care centers in California being ordered to test its drinking water for lead under Assembly Bill 2370. The law mandates that licensed child care facilities built before 2010 must test their water for lead levels. Tests revealed the child care center in the Alum Rock neighborhood had 120 times the amount of lead legally allowable at a licensed day care.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has dictated that no amount of lead in water is safe for a child. The recommended quantity of lead in water is zero, but the EPA legally allows up to 15 parts per billion of water in public waterways.

    Licensed day cares are not permitted to have anything higher than five parts per billion (ppb), but data shows the Linda Vista Center has 600 ppb in its drinking water as of Oct. 27, 2022.

    Nohemi Perez, mother of enrolled 7-year-old Dulce, spoke highly of the day care despite the concerning news.

    “I don’t have problems with (the day care). The day care takes good care of the children and it is a good day care,” Perez told San José Spotlight. “The teachers, the people, take good care of the children.”

    But the contamination issue “absolutely” needs to be fixed, she said.

    After publication, Mario Fierro-Hernandez, Kidango assistant director of communications, said the child care center did collect and test water samples from all the drinking water fixtures at the Linda Vista Center location and immediately discontinued the use of those fixtures that exceeded EPA lead levels.

    “We have since installed modern manufactured lead-free fixtures and supply lines in all our Kidango classrooms including Kidango Linda Vista Center,” she said. “Subsequent water samples were taken and analyzed by the same accredited laboratory… the water (fixtures contain) zero lead particles.”

    Having lead in water can cause serious health issues for anyone who consumes it. Symptoms for children can include behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia, according to the EPA.

    Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist Tasha Stoiber said infants whose primary source of calories is formula mixed with water means the child is taking in a lot of water in a small body.

    “Children are in their developing stages, that’s when they’re most susceptible to these effects when your nervous system and your brain is developing,” Stoiber told San José Spotlight.

    The state requires licensed day care centers to test every five years for lead levels, and if levels are outside the allowed range they must provide a different source of water for children until the facility can purify the tap water.

    “Any known exposure should be reduced, or eliminated as much as possible,” Stoiber said. “That’s why it’s so important that all of these centers do this testing, and that they are solving issues when they pop up.”

    Susan Little, senior advocate of California Government Affairs for Environmental Working Group, said these initial tests are just the “tip of the iceberg” for contaminated water testing.

    “Family care homes do not have to test it all, and there are nearly twice as many family care homes as there are centers,” Little said. “Also schools, our K-12 schools, do not have to do comprehensive testing. They did one very limited round of sampling.”

    Assemblymember Chris Holden, who wrote the original bill in 2018, is introducing another bill, AB 249, to the State Assembly Appropriations Committee that would require K-12 schools to test their water for lead.

    “Children are our most important resource,” Little said. “Any exposure to lead, like this, is something that could dramatically affect their life and their life outcomes, and certainly their ability to become the people that we all want them to be.”

    Contact Madison Wilber at [email protected] or follow @minutewithmadison on Instagram.

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