Child care lead in water requirements

Tracking states and cities taking action to better protect children

Children under the age of 6 are most vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of lead exposure. Even at low levels, lead exposure can harm the brain development of young children – resulting in learning and behavioral problems for the rest of their lives. Despite the particular vulnerability of young children to lead exposure, the majority of states do not require licensed child care facilities to test their drinking water for lead and take action if it is found.

Eleven states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) and two cities (New York City and DC) require licensed child care facilities to test their drinking water for lead. Some states have additional requirements for any facility that operates their own public water system or school testing requirements that apply to child care facilities on school property. For the eleven states that specifically require licensed facilities to test for lead in drinking water, the requirements differ widely. Key features include:

  • Facilities covered: Requirements may apply to child care centers, smaller home-based or family child care, or both. All requirements currently only cover licensed facilities.
  • Testing timing, frequency, and location: The required frequency for testing ranges from a one-time test to testing every 1-6 years – often coinciding with when licenses are renewed. While most require sampling at all potential sources of drinking water (e.g., used to drink, cook, or mix infant formula) a few states only require limited sampling (e.g., at a single outlet).
  • Standard: The lead level used to trigger corrective action is 15 parts per billion (ppb)1 in most states and New York City. Illinois uses 2 ppb, Vermont 4 ppb, and California’s 5ppb.
  • Corrective action and notification: Required actions if lead levels exceed the standard usually include stopping use of the affected fixture(s) and providing water that meets the standard. Illinois, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Vermont require a remedial action plan be submitted to the state. Communication to parents or guardians is required by seven states and Washington, DC, if levels above the standard are found; California, Oregon and Vermont require the notification regardless of testing results. California, Vermont, and New York City require posting of results publicly online.

Lead in drinking water requirements for child care facilities

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State or city Facilities covered Testing timing, frequency and location Standard1 Corrective action and notification Source
  1. 15 ppb is often selected based on the Lead Action Level set by the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. This standard is not based on health. As described by EPA, “The action level for lead is not a health-based standard and is based upon EPA’s evaluation of available data on the ability of corrosion control to reduce lead levels at the tap.”
  2. Based on verbal communications; detail is not specified in the rule.
  3. The use of the term "EPA action level" is not clear in this requirement. In practice [PDF], Washington State uses a standard of 20 ppb.

Additional detail on requirements, definitions and acronyms [PDF].

(Sep. 2018)
Licensed Child Care Centers constructed before 2010 (does not apply to Family Child Care Homes). Existing licensed facilities by 2023, before initial licensing, and every 5 years thereafter. All drinking water sources on the exterior and interior of buildings. Greater than 5 ppb. Immediately cease the use of affected fixtures and obtain a potable source of water. Post all test results online and notify parents of results. Statute

2021 Directive
Licensed centers and group child care homes. License application and every 2 years thereafter. Sample at a minimum of one outlet.2 Greater than 15 ppb. Provide bottled water until remediation is completed. Statutes and Rules [PDF]
(Jan. 2017)
Licensed facilities constructed before 2000 (centers and home-based). Existing licensed facilities by 2019 and before initial licensing. If lead detected, retest 6 months followed by every year until 2 consecutive tests indicate no lead. Sampling at all drinking water sources. 2 ppb. Mitigation and implementation plan required. Testing information, results, and mitigation efforts provided in enrollment materials. Results posted in building. Licensing Standards
(Jul. 2018)
Family child care providers (centers not covered). One time testing at a single outlet required prior to licensing. 15 ppb2 Retest outlet. If standard is still exceeded after retesting, replace the fixture. If elevated levels continue, use bottled water.2 Notification of bottled water agreement must be posted in building. Rules
New Hampshire
(Feb. 2018)
Licensed child care facilities (centers and home-based). Existing facilities and before initial license application.2 Every 5 years thereafter. No further testing required after 3 consecutive tests below standard. Sampling at all drinking water locations available for consumption by children. Above applicable EPA standard. Provide water that meets the standard as an interim measure. Implement an approved remediation plan. Notify parents and guardians within 5 business days if samples are above standard. Statute
New Jersey
(Mar. 2017)
Licensed child care facilities (centers and home-based). Initial application, renewal application (3 year cycle), relocation, as requested by state. Sampling at all faucets used for drinking water or food preparation and at least 50 percent of all indoor water faucets utilized. Elevated as defined by NJDEP (currently 15 ppb). Provide bottled water for drinking and food preparation, label taps, and take remedial action. Results posted in building. Notify parents and NJDCF if elevated levels found. Requirements [PDF]
North Carolina
(Oct. 2019)
Licensed child care centers (family child care homes not covered). Existing facilities by October 2020, with license, every 3 years, renovation or repairs. Test at all outlets used for drinking or food preparation. Equal to or greater than 10 ppb. Stop use and provide alternative water source until outlet meets standard. State retests outlet. Make results publicly available if levels are elevated based on state sampling. Child Care Rules [PDF]

Statute [PDF]

2021 Statutory Update
(Mar. 2018)
Licensed child care facilities (centers and home-based). Existing facilities by September 2018, prior to licensure, and every 6 years thereafter. Sampling at all locations accessible to children or used to obtain water for consumption purposes. Equal to or greater than 15 ppb. Provide bottled water or use taps with samples <15 ppb, submit mitigation plan, and take corrective action. Results posted in building. Notify all parents and guardians of results. Oregon Administrative Rules
Rhode Island
Licensed child care program. Prior to licensing and for license renewal if significant modifications made to plumbing system. Sampling at all locations used for food preparation, cooking, and/or drinking. Equal to or greater than 15 ppb in a flushed sample. Provide bottled water, label taps, and replace lead containing plumbing materials, or use certified filter. Regulations [PDF]

Regulations [PDF]
(Jun. 2019)
Licensed or regulated child care facilities (centers and home-based). By 2021 for existing facilities and continued sampling once every 3 years. Sampling at all taps used for drinking, cooking, food prep, and brushing teeth, collecting first draw and 30-second flushed samples. Equal to or greater than 4 ppb. Take immediate action and remediate using state guidance if action level exceeded. All testing and remediation plans provided to parents and available online. Statute
(May 2017)
Licensed early learning providers (centers and home-based). Existing facilities by November 2017, prior to licensing and every 6 years thereafter. Sampling at all locations used to obtain water for consumption. Above current EPA action level.4 Close the program or supply bottled water and consult with WADOH, notify state licensing agency. Notify parents if above action level and again when levels are below action level. Quality Standards [PDF]
New York City, NY
(Sep. 2016)
Child care programs (home-based not covered). Existing facilities, within 60 days of opening, and every 5 years thereafter. Sampling at all drinking water faucets and fountains. Equal to or greater than 15 ppb. Provide bottled water until remedial actions in corrective action plan completed. Results posted by city at Child Care Connect. Health Code [PDF]
Washington, DC
(Jul. 2017)
Child development facilities, unless specifically exempted. Annually with the first test completed by September 31, 2019. Sample at all drinking water sources. Greater than 5 ppb. Shut off the drinking water source within 24 hours and until testing shows lead concentrations under 5 ppb. Install a filter. Communicate test results and remediation steps to parents. Statute

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