Though all eyes have been on Flint, Michigan lately, in outcries over its lack of clean water, lead has been leaking into many different water supplies for a while now.
It’s possible that Flint’s issue was the worst or the most easily preventable, which is why so many more people are aware of it, but leaking lead presents a large problem in many other areas, specifically those of low income. Cities in Ohio, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and many other states have all dealt with some degree of contamination from the harmful element. There have been no California outbreaks, but several scares over water in LA school systems have led to testing.
Most cities still use lead pipes, as they were originally constructed to enlarge municipal water systems, and water supplies contain chemicals that cause corrosion of these pipes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water should be tested and treated for this exact reason, but it doesn’t always happen, likely due to costs or oversight. Furthermore, lead pipes are rarely replaced because it’s too expensive. In Flint, for example, it’s been estimated to cost roughly $55 million.
There are instances in which citizens of those cities will drink and use that contaminated water for months before any sort of official reports that there is a problem. In fact, at the start of this century, some Washington D.C. residents were drinking water containing over 20 times the safe lead level for three years, completely oblivious to the fact that there was a problem.
Unfortunately, this kind of degradation of water supplies may lead to immense adverse health effects in adults, as well as the permanent lowering of the performance and IQ of children.
“Any exposure to lead levels above normal are going to have very negative effects on children especially,” said Jennifer Lynn, science teacher. “Adults can handle a bit higher levels of exposure, but children cannot, which is why there is such great concern about lead in water.”
Lead is something very dangerous, and it poses a very real threat to many cities and their luckless citizens. Many are calling for more testing to be done, and demanding safety of their drinking water for theirs and future generations.