City of Berkeley, Calif. Mayor Jesse Arreguin will proclaim Tuesday, October 12, 2023 as Children's Environmental Health Day in Berkeley. Nutrition Policy Institute's senior policy advisor Christina Hecht worked with the mayor's office to issue the proclamation. Berkeley joins communities and over 100 partner organizations across the nation in recognizing the importance of supporting and improving environmental health, particularly for children. Observed on the second Thursday of every October, CEH Day is meant to raise awareness and ignite actions that support and advance safe and healthy environments for all children. “The Children's Environmental Health Network applauds the work of our CEH Day partners and the important resources that they are for the families and communities,” says Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Check the CEH Day Events & Activities Map to see CEH Day events and activities taking place throughout the country. Healthy places to live, learn, and play—with clean air and water, safe and nutritious food, and stable climates—are critical for children's health and development and are central to NPI's mission. NPI also coordinates the National Drinking Water Alliance which includes a strong focus on children's drinking water safety and access.
Findings from a recent study indicate that most California schools are providing drinking water that meets current safety standards. However, the authors suggest that continued attention and investments are needed to assure tap water safety in all schools. Researchers partnered with 83 schools from a representative sample of 240 California public schools to collect and analyze tap water samples for five common drinking water contaminants: arsenic, nitrate, hexavalent chromium, copper and lead. The first three may occur naturally in groundwater but can also come from agricultural or industrial activities. Lead and copper are heavy metals that may be found in building plumbing and can be present in tap water under certain conditions. No tap water samples violated the California state action level for arsenic or nitrate, two contaminants that should be brought to levels at or below state standards by water utility treatment of their sourcewater. Four percent of schools had at least one sample that exceeded California's proposed 10 parts per billion action level for hexavalent chromium. Four percent of schools exceeded the 1300 ppb state action level for copper. A notable feature of the study was its detailed analysis of lead in tap water. Four percent of study schools had at least one first-draw tap water sample that exceeded the 15 ppb state action level for lead, 18% exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's bottled water standard of 5 ppb, and 75% exceeded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 1 ppb. Researchers found that turning on the affected taps to “flush” pipes for 45 seconds reduced observed lead concentrations above 15, 5, and 1 ppb to 2%, 10%, and 33% of schools, respectively. These findings provide valuable information for mitigating the presence of lead in tap water. The study, “A Comprehensive Examination of the Contaminants in Drinking Water in Public Schools in California, 2017-2022”, was published online on September 4, 2023 in the journal Public Health Reports. It was conducted by researchers from the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute, Stanford University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
A study, “Effectiveness of a School Drinking Water Promotion and Access Program for Overweight Prevention,” led by Dr. Anisha Patel from Stanford University, along with researchers from the University of California's Nutrition Policy Institute and UC San Francisco, finds that a school-based intervention to enable and promote tap water consumption can prevent overweight in 4th-grade students. The randomized controlled trial analyzed data collected from 1262 students at 18 low-income, ethnically diverse elementary schools in California. The Water First program included the installation of a water dispenser with cups in the cafeteria, and two water bottle filling stations in other high-traffic areas of each school, classroom lessons related to healthy beverage choice, and schoolwide water promotion over one school year. Researchers observed a 3.2 percentage point difference in the prevalence of overweight among students in intervention schools compared to those in schools that did not receive the intervention. National standards set by Healthy People call for a 2.3% reduction in childhood obesity by 2030. While Water First did not affect obesity prevalence, it prevented overweight—an important target for preventing the onset of obesity. The study is a significant addition to the evidence base on the importance of enabling the consumption of plain water given its finding that improving and promoting access to safe and appealing drinking water can prevent weight gain in children. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be featured in the September 2023 issue of Pediatrics and was published online on August 7, 2023. A short video of study findings is available in English and Spanish, and the study was featured in multiple media outlets including an August 7, 2023 news story in HealthDay, "Some Schools Respond to Child Obesity by Focusing on Water," an August 7, 2023 video in CBS News, "Getting kids to drink more water at school may prevent excess weight gain," an August 10, 2023 news story in CNN, "How water-bottle fill stations can impact children's health, according to a new study," and an August 10, 2023 article in Physicians Weekly, "School-based water promotion program associated with lower overweight prevalence." The Water First intervention materials are available online. Dr. Patel is a member of the National Drinking Water Alliance, which is coordinated by NPI.
The Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) is hosting a virtual 2023 Sugar Reduction Summit to convene researchers, advocates, and stakeholders working in the field of sugar and sugary drink reduction on April 25-27, 2023, from 10:00 a.m.-2:15 p.m. PDT. The program includes four plenary sessions and twenty workshop sessions on sugary drink reduction science, communications, and policies, each led by experts in the field. One of the invited experts leading a workshop is Christina Hecht, senior policy advisor with the Nutrition Policy Institute. Hecht organized and will moderate the session: “Water: Making it Real” on Wednesday April 26, 2023 at 1:10 p.m. PDT. Hecht is an active voice in supporting equitable access to safe and clean drinking water. She is a co-founder of the UC Research Consortium on Beverages and Health, a group of faculty from every UC campus who work to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and replace them with water. She belongs to the National Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Reduction Workgroup, where she uses research to propose policy recommendations to reduce intake of sugary drinks. Hecht works with colleagues at NPI and nationally to advance research in drinking water access and to advocate for healthier beverage choices; she also coordinates the National Drinking Water Alliance. Hecht will speak about the essentials to enable consumption of water and panellists will describe current community efforts to enable drinking water in Navajo Nation, New Orleans, Nevada and Philadelphia. Registration for the 2023 Sugar Reduction Summit is free of charge. The agenda for the event can be found on the Center for Science in Public Interest website.
The National Water Quality Monitoring Council is hosting a conference to call attention to monitoring water quality/quantity, public health, and ecological health in all water resources. The 13th National Monitoring Conference will be held from April 24-28, 2023 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a limited virtual format. Christina Hecht, senior policy advisor at the Nutrition Policy Institute and coordinator of the National Drinking Water Alliance, is an invited panelist for the session “Lead Testing in Schools and Daycares: California's Case Example,” on Tuesday, April 25, 2023 from 10:30 a.m.-noon PDT. She will share her research experience and answer questions about school drinking water lead testing programs, policy and results in California and nationally. Prospective attendees may register and view the conference program agenda on the North American Lake Management Society website.