Most of us take clean tap water for granted. But in millions of homes, that tap water could actually be contaminated with lead.
“The main issue with lead is that it’s a powerful neurotoxin, and it really impacts especially young children,” said Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the non-profit Michigan Environmental Council.
Even low levels of lead exposure can cause permanent damage to kids’ brains and nervous systems, and a host of ailments for adults too. There is no known safe level of lead exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s really scary if you think about it, not being able to trust the water that’s coming out of your tap really does impact your daily life. Thinking that maybe your water impacted your child’s health is a really scary thing to realize as a parent,” she said.
In 2014, this became a reality for the residents of Flint, Michigan. In an effort to save money, the city switched its water source but failed to treat the new water with chemicals that prevent corrosion. Without corrosion control, Flint’s network of old lead pipes leached the toxic metal into the drinking water, poisoning city residents.
For many, the Flint water crisis drew attention to the hazards of lead contamination for the first time. But the factors that created this crisis aren’t unique to Flint.
“There are a thousand communities around America that could be a Flint if things go wrong in the water supply,” said Gabriel Filippelli, executive director of the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, there are around 9 to 12 million lead pipes serving more than 20 million households across the…
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