Lead Contamination Beyond Flint
Drinking Water and Children's Health

Summary

LEAD CONTAMINATION BEYOND FLINT: Drinking Water and Children’s Health
Thursday, April 20, 2017

On the whole, American drinking water is safe. However, more than a year after toxic lead levels forced a federal state of emergency in Flint, MI, 63 percent of Americans report that they worry a great deal about polluted drinking water. This statistic comes from a new Gallup poll indicating that water pollution ranks the highest of six environmental concerns among respondents. While pipes in Flint are expected to be replaced with the help of a $97 million settlement, there are other cities with histories of unsafe lead levels — or other toxins — in drinking water. These contaminants can threaten health, particularly among children. This Forum grappled with safekeeping American drinking water supplies. Does the drinking water infrastructure need replacement? How would such an effort look? Do public alert systems help? What about other potential lead exposure sources? What is the role of regulation in a time of proposed deep cuts to EPA funding? What does the public need to know? This timely discussion was held in advance of Earth Day.

Part of: .

Presented jointly with The Huffington Post

Image Credit: iStock: caristo

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will start in a few minutes. Thanks all!

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will begin in about 2 minutes. Stay with us.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We’ve begun. Welcome to our event. This event is presented jointly with The Huffington Post.

  • The Forum Moderator

    This clip is courtesy of the ACLU of Michigan. Full video is available here: http://www.aclumich.org/herestoflint

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will have a Q&A towards the end of this event. Send your questions to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu or post them here.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The New Zealand study referenced by Dr. Mazumdar is here: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2613157

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thanks to all who have sent questions. If you have questions for our panel, email them to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu or post them here.

  • The Forum Moderator

    The website launched by Dr. Feigl-Ding where you can find out more about heavy metals in your community’s drinking water, or sign up to receive alerts, is called ToxinAlert.org: https://www.toxinalert.org/

  • The Forum Moderator

    This video was provided by Dr. Feigl-Ding.

  • How will such tools (as ToxinAlert) function if EPA-source data is curtailed or restricted?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks Maynard. Great question.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will be posting a video on-demand of this event on this site tomorrow. It also will be available immediately on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Forumhsph/

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will be starting our Q&A shortly.

  • The Forum Moderator

    In addition to posting the video on-demand here, we will also post a searchable transcript on this page. The transcript will be available next week.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will be ending around 1:30pm ET.

  • Stormalong

    Dr. Feigl-DIng clearly hasn’t familiarized himself with the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule of the Safe Drinking Water Act; his statements are beyond misleading and over into false. He should leave that area to Mr. Estes-Smargiassi.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Quick reminder that we will post the video on-demand here tomorrow, and a searchable transcript next week.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Join us again:

    The Opioid Crisis: A Governor’s Roundtable
    May 5, 2017
    12:30-1:30pm
    ForumHSPH.org

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    I get my water from a well, do I need to be worried about lead in that case?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    I read that lead exposure can be passed down through generations, that it results in epigenetic changes that can be seen in the children and grandchildren of those exposed. Is that true?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Lead exposure has been shown to lower IQ and has been linked to violence and criminal behavior. What can we expect on that front in a situation like Flint, where children already are exposed to so many social stresses as a result of poverty and other inequalities. Is anyone ramping up the social support and mental health services in light of this crisis?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    I was extremely disturbed by the recent Reuters article about lead poisoning in California, including areas of Fresno and Oakland, where lead levels among children were as high or even higher than in Flint. How much of that was due to lead in water? And, how common is this scenario across America? I was stunned at what I read.

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Will replacing fixtures actually solve the problem of lead in schools – what about plumbing replacement if the lead is leaching from the pipes leading to the fixtures? What is the actual magnitude of this problem in terms of schools affected and potential costs to fix?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    How often do schools actually test their water for lead?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Disadvantaged children are so much more at risk for lead exposures. How can we ramp up screenings for at risk kids? Are there more frequent screenings for kids in neighborhoods where exposure is more likely to be an issue, such as those living in public or older housing, or in families on Medicaid?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    I am a new father and we had our water tested for lead before our daughter arrived, we were lucky as the levels were safe. But what do you do if they’re not? What are the steps to pursue if you find unsafe lead in your water?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    We know that lead exposure is bad for children, but does it also affect elderly people? If so, in what ways and how can we help?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    A $97 million settlement has been reached to replace pipes in Flint. Is this a success or not? If you had the authority, how would you spend that money?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    If no level of lead in drinking water is safe, why do government guidelines still allow some level to be present?

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Are the current requirements in the current USEPA Lead and Copper Rule protective of public health? (is the 15 ppb regulatory threshold health-based?)

    Paul A. B.

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Does partial removal of lead service lines (on the street side) which is commonly practiced by water utilities throughout the U.S. create a public health risk? How is the public being informed of this risk during routine or emergency maintenance?

    Paul A. B.

  • Kristen Lally

    Question from email

    Greetings from Lansing, Michigan, where we removed our last active lead service line last December – a 12-year, $42 million project. What are the prospects for much-needed changes in the LCR to address flawed “first draw” sampling techniques and using the “90th percentile” as the standard for compliance? Because lead is a zero tolerance toxin for children, shouldn’t we do more to protect the 10% of households that can test far above the “acceptable” action level while their water supplier gets a passing grade?

    Thanks,

    Randy H.