Water is the most fundamental unit of life, necessary for the survival of every organism on earth. Despite the importance of this essential molecule, water resources across the United States are not treated with the appropriate level of care and precaution to protect public health.
As one of the most wealthy and powerful countries in the world, with access to the most advanced technology in existence, it is reasonable to assume that the US would be able to provide all its citizens with safe, healthy drinking water. Events like the tragic water crisis in Flint, Michigan should be just an isolated outlier, an ultra-rare disaster in a system that otherwise takes every action possible to minimize exposure to toxic contaminants. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and throughout the country lead-contaminated drinking water is afflicting communities both large and small.
Major metropolitan areas such as Chicago, that required lead plumbing be used up until it was federally banned in 1986, still struggle with these issues, with a recent Chicago Tribune article citing over a hundred homes with lead levels exceeding the EPA’s 15 ppb action level. The issue is often even more pressing for smaller communities that may lack the funding to comprehensively address these water quality issues.
In a 2018 article from the New York Times, Maura Allaire, a University of California, Irvine assistant professor argues that smaller communities often “fly under the radar”, suffering from atrophied infrastructure and challenged to meet water quality and treatment standards. That same article cites research showing that in the year of 2015 only, up to 21,000,000 US citizens were at risk of exposure to dangerous lead levels.
Lead ingestion endangers most systems of the human body and can lead to kidney issues, reproductive problems, brain damage, and ultimately death. No amount of lead exposure is safe for humans, and even below the action level of 15 ppb set by the EPA, human health issues can occur, especially for pregnant women and children under the age of 6. At such critical stages of physical and mental development lead is even more hazardous, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water below 1 ppb lead for young children.
Given the severity and pervasiveness of the issue, it would seem common-sense to protect America’s kids from lead poisoning. Only 7 states, however, require that schools even test for lead in their drinking water (California, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois and Virginia). While CHEJ is currently working to address this obvious political failure, there’s something that everyone can do. H.R. 5833, or the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act of 2017 is currently awaiting a decision in the House of Representatives. If you want to protect people from exposure to hazardous chemicals such as lead, contact your local representative and demand that they focus on this issue, and do their part to guarantee the safety of American children.
Take action and contact your representative to act on the Get the Lead of Schools Act.