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Lead Contamination Crisis Grips United States, Concerns Health Authorities

Lead Contamination Crisis Grips United States | Credits: Google Images

United States: Lead contamination has become quite common in the United States. Recently, Chicago has reported that around 400,000 homes have been getting tap water with increased levels of lead. The major reason behind this is the use of lead pipes to connect the main water line with individual homes.

Due to the same, the JAMA Pediatrics has reportedly mentioned that approximately 70 percent (70%) of the young Americans have been exposed to the lead from their home tap water. While focusing on the highly infected Americans, the research mentioned that the Black and Hispanic neighborhoods are more likely to get exposed to lead. However, the community is less likely to be tested for lead.

In this regard, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study – Benjamin Huỳnh, said, “The concerning thing here is that [lead exposure] is happening at such a population level, and we don’t know which houses have small levels of exposure and which ones have large levels,” news daily npr.org reported.

In addition to this, he also raised concerns on the low lead levels, which can also cause health problems.

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The health authorities also said that in various regions of the United States, the issue of lead contamination persists in the drinking water supply. Despite regulations prohibiting the use of this hazardous element in water pipelines since 1986, numerous residences were constructed before this prohibition. Notably, Chicago faces significant challenges due to its extensive employment of lead pipes, a consequence of city ordinances mandating their use until their eventual ban.

Huỳnh’s calculations are derived from analyses of lead concentrations found in water samples obtained from households. These findings stem from a voluntary testing initiative offered by the city of Chicago, although participation remains low, with less than 10% of households opting for testing. Huỳnh notes a disparity in testing rates, indicating a higher likelihood of participation in predominantly affluent, white neighborhoods, which are less predisposed to lead contamination, as per npr.org.

To supplement available data, Huỳnh and colleagues incorporate various data sets encompassing demographics, health indicators, and surveys on the primary sources of drinking water among Chicago residents. Leveraging machine learning algorithms, they process this information to forecast levels of lead exposure through tap water throughout the city.

Their analysis suggests that approximately 20% of children residing in homes with lead-contaminated tap water consume it as their primary water source, potentially leading to elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream.

These findings come as no surprise to Elin Betanzo, head of Safe Water Engineering in Detroit, who independently scrutinizes Chicago’s data. Betanzo underscores the peril of undetected lead in water supplies, emphasizing the daily ingestion of contaminated water as a significant concern.

Hazards of Lead Contamination

Lead is the most potentially trouble making agent to youngsters among all the toxins linked with severe effects on brain and nervous system, intelligence, behavior and speech for kids of small age as well as might have impact on hearing of infants. As for adults, their lead exposure correlates with the kidney function impairment as well as elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular complications.

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Despite the experts’ opinions that there is no lead level safe for children, urban cities like Chicago are able to mirror the least strict federal regulation. The Chicago Department of Public Health affirms that they want to meet the EPA for water quality measurements but also to go further with the EPA requirements.

Nonetheless, most policymakers and water safety professionals allude to the underwhelming effect of the existing regulatory framework. Betanzo formulates the federal Lead and Copper Rule as weak legislation that might not be effective in safeguarding public health, saying that the law requires to be amended to ensure enough measures are taken, npr.org reports.

Pursuant to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper rule (1991), local water systems should be controlled against ameliorating corrosion of lead as long as the concentration of lead is greater than 15 parts per billion. Nonetheless, such EPA audits reveal quite a shocking figure: 90% of such cases remain unreported by the federal authorities.

The Lead and Copper Rule’s enforcement by Elizabeth Southerland, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Science and Technology in the Office of Water, was rated most poorly compared to the performance of other drinking water management systems in history.

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