HOW DID LEAD GET INTO OUR DRINKING WATER?
LEAD is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals causing adverse health effects.
Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water.
IS THERE A SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD IN DRINKING WATER?
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in
drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health
risks, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.
LONG-TERM HEALTH EFFECTS
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing problems
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:
- Cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
- Decreased kidney function
- Reproductive problems (in both men and women)
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus to lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
- Reduced growth of the fetus
- Premature birth
CLICK ON THIS 2016 INTERACTIVE LEAD MAP (USA) TO SEE HOW MUCH LEAD IS IN YOUR COMMUNITY'S DRINKING WATER.
- Beyond Flint: Excessive lead levels found in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states (USA Today)
- At least 33 US cities used water testing 'cheats' over lead concerns (Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia (The Guardian)