Is There Lead in Your Water?
Jan. 22, 2016 -- It’s not just Flint, MI. The drinking water of many cities across the U.S. could have high lead levels, and you wouldn’t necessarily know it.
Like Flint, many places have water systems that rely on lead pipes to carry water to homes. When those pipes are disturbed or damaged by road vibrations, chemical disinfectants, and even summertime heat, it can cause lead rust inside the pipes to flake off, contaminating the water.
You can’t see, smell, or taste lead in water. It can cause permanent damage to the brain and other organs, and it’s most dangerous for kids, whose small bodies are still developing, the CDC says.
Most people know about the threat of lead in old paint. People who buy homes built before 1978 are often warned that chips of old paint might be dangerous if swallowed. But the threat of lead from tap water isn’t as well known.
Flint's Water Fiasco
Flint got into trouble when the cash-strapped city tried to lower its water bills. In 2014, a state-appointed emergency manager switched Flint from the more expensive Detroit water system to drawing water from the polluted Flint river. The acidic river water corroded the city’s lead water pipes, causing them to leach high levels of lead into the town’s drinking water.
The state’s chief medical executive estimates that nearly 9,000 children in the city were poisoned. Even though the state has switched Flint back to the Detroit water system, the pipes are so damaged that the water may still not be safe to drink. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has formally apologized to the citizens of Flint and promised to fix the problem.
But for many kids, the damage may already be done. Lead builds up in the body, and the nerve damage it causes can be permanent. A child who has been exposed, even at very low levels, may have problems with attention, learning, and controlling impulses. Lead exposure dramatically increases the risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.