2021 Honorable Mention Award Recipient

Clean Water for Carolina Kids


RTI International


Clean Water for Carolina Kids


North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services / Division of Public Health

Duke Environmental Law and Policy Center

NC Child

Clean Water for Carolina Kids

RTI International3040 East Cornwallis Road
Durham, NC 27709
Jennifer Hoponick Redmon
Senior Environmental Health Scientist and Program Director


Infants and children need access to safe drinking water. Yet, the health of millions of our youngest citizens may be at risk because of toxic lead in the piping and plumbing in the childcare centers and schools where they play and learn.

Today, Clean Water for Carolina Kids is making critical advancements in protecting children from lead exposure. Launched in 2017 by RTI, an independent nonprofit research institute, Clean Water for Carolina Kids began as a community-based pilot study to engage and train school administrators in testing for and tracking lead contamination with a simple but groundbreaking mail-out test kit and a cloud-based enrollment and reporting portal. The study found that lead was present in water, above the American Academy of Pediatrics reference level, at 63% of the childcare centers and schools tested.

RTI is dedicated to improving the human condition through science-based solutions. Its team of nearly 6,000 experts works collaboratively with outside organizations to address complex social and scientific challenges on behalf of communities and businesses around the world.

Leveraging local connections, RTI partnered with various organizations to evaluate legal, regulatory and economic options for statewide lead testing. Together with input from outside stakeholders, RTI and its partners successfully updated North Carolina’s statewide childcare sanitation rule to require all licensed childcare centers to test for lead in water being used for drinking and food preparation.

“Clean Water for Carolina Kids is the first program to make available large-scale, yet scientifically robust, lead-in-water testing, while empowering school and childcare administrators as ‘citizen scientists,’” said Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, a senior environmental health scientist and program director at RTI International. “This year, we expanded the program throughout public schools in Georgia and with private well-owners across the U.S. We are elated that it has become a model for eliminating childhood exposure to lead and other contaminants. With federal funding, this testing is free to all participants.”

Our school was built in the 1940s, long before a federal rule came along in 1986 and banned lead use in pipes and fittings. Clean Water for Carolina Kids provided testing kits that were a great resource for us to make sure that the kids in our building were safe.”

Hannah Bradshaw Coordinator, Onslow County Elementary Schools Pre-K Child Care Centers


Percent of 4,400 licensed childcare centers in North Carolina that have participated in the program.


North Carolina children (ages 6 and younger) who now have access to safe drinking water.

As a result of Clean Water for Carolina Kids’ unique citizen scientist approach to collecting water samples, more than 94% of licensed childcare centers in North Carolina have already completed testing. No other state in the Southeast has reached this level of testing to assure safe drinking water for children.”

Ed Norman

MPH, Program Manager, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,
Environmental Health Section

2022 Award Winners
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