The lead contamination crises in Flint, Michigan, and East Chicago, Indiana, as well as the surge of news reports about lead risks in communities across the country have shone a national spotlight on the problem of childhood lead exposure. Lead poisoning is completely preventable, yet lead persists in communities throughout the U.S.
This a critical moment for action to protect the nation’s children, enhance their opportunities to succeed, and reduce costs to taxpayers. A recent report from the Health Impact Project, 10 Policies to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure, assesses the lead risks communities face and key federal, state, and local solutions.
The report identifies two targets for reducing lead exposure in drinking water:
Reducing lead in drinking water in homes built before 1986 and in other places children frequent. Recommendations include stronger EPA requirements to reduce the corrosivity of drinking water, improve water sampling protocols, and create a science-based household water lead action level; and investigation and mitigation of lead exposure in school and child care drinking water.
Removing leaded water service lines from homes of children born in 2018 would protect more than 350,000 children and yield $2.7 billion in future benefits, or about $1.33 for every dollar invested. Five to ten million lead service lines provide water for up to 22 million people.
For drinking water-specific recommendations from the full report, read the Drinking Water Policy Brief prepared by Trust for America's Health. The brief highlights differences in water testing at schools and child care centers, actions some states have already taken to implement testing policies in those settings, and communities that have implemented policies addressing residential lead service lines.
The Health Impact Project is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts. Trust for America’s Health, National Center for Healthy Housing, Urban Institute, Altarum Institute, Child Trends and many researchers and partners contributed to the report.