RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The State of North Carolina and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, today announced the Clean Classrooms for Carolina KidsTM program is ready to help public schools, licensed child care centers, and family child care homes identify and eliminate exposure to lead and asbestos hazards in building infrastructure. The program is an expansion of Clean Water for Carolina KidsTM, which previously tested all child care centers in the state for lead in water at drinking and food preparation taps.
“This expansion is made possible by once-in-a-lifetime funding,” said Ed Norman, program manager of the Children’s Environmental Health Unit and Health Hazards Control Unit at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). “We look forward to using these funds to implement one of the largest improvements to public health for child-occupied facilities in our state.”
Lead and asbestos are known health hazards with no safe level of exposure. Lead use in water infrastructure includes piping, plumbing, fixtures, and solder with restrictions in 1988 and 2014. Lead-based paint may be present in pre-1978 buildings, while asbestos may be present mostly in pre-1988 building materials including insulation, wall plaster, and floor tiles.
We’re truly grateful for the opportunity to assist centers and schools in protecting children’s health and lifetime potential with this expanded program,” said Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, the ‘Clean Water’ founding director and the ‘Clean Classrooms’ program director at RTI. “Our program objective is to identify and eliminate exposure to asbestos, lead in tap water, and lead-based paint where kids learn and play across North Carolina.”
Clean Classrooms for Carolina Kids will use the same participatory science approach as its ‘Clean Water’ predecessor and expand on that program by assessing lead-based paint and asbestos hazards at facilities. For lead-based paint or asbestos hazards, if the program staff identify hazards, facilities will choose whether to restrict access or mitigate any hazards, with full reimbursement available for licensed child care centers and up to 2/3 reimbursement for public schools for eligible expenses. Drinking and food preparation taps exceeding the state action level for lead will also receive free fixture replacement and certified filter installation, as needed.
Public school facilities will be contacted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), while licensed child care centers and family child care homes will be contacted by the NCDHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education when it is time to enroll, beginning in September 2023. Facility staff will be invited to attend an online pre-enrollment webinar.
“North Carolina is committed to keeping children safe,” said Catherine Truitt, Superintendent of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. “We look forward to serving as a liaison with schools during program implementation.”
In total, $150 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding was allocated by the North Carolina governor and approved in the legislative budget. As this is a legislatively mandated effort, facilities are required to meet rule requirements (NC 10A NCAC 41C.1001-1007, NC 154A NCAC 18A.2816). Clean Classrooms for Carolina Kids is designed to ensure facilities meet all requirements, receive direct support throughout the participation process, and have access to communication resources.
The program funding will be available until Nov. 30, 2026.
About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.
About the NC Department of Health and Human Services
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services manages the delivery of health and human related services for all North Carolinians, especially our most vulnerable citizens — children, elderly, disabled and low-income families. The department works closely with health care professionals, community leaders, advocacy groups, local, state and federal entities and many other stakeholders to make this happen.
About the NC Department of Public Instruction
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public schools at the direction of the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ district public schools, 200+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments.