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Why lead is so dangerous in drinking water

In early April, attorneys for a group of school children in Flint, Michigan won a $4 million legal agreement. As a result, in the fall of 2018, the kids will begin receiving health screenings and assessments to measure the impact of lead found in the city’s drinking water. Next the lawyers plan to advocate extending these health services to all school children in Flint. But why are they fighting for screenings and assessments? What’s so dangerous about lead in the drinking water supply?

The Danger of Bioaccumulation

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states there is no known safe level of lead consumption for anyone, but children are particularly vulnerable. Kids absorb lead into their systems more easily than adults. Once lead is in a child’s system, it bioaccumulates, meaning that the contaminant compiles in the body over time. This can cause a number of issues, for instance, if young brain cells absorb lead, it can alter brain signals and eventually lower the child’s IQ. If a child’s body begins to store lead in its bone structure, in time, the toxin can interfere with calcium in the bones and inhibit growth.

Additional Concerns

The effects of low-level lead exposure in children include damage to the nervous system, learning and hearing disabilities, blood issues and problems with growth. Adults experience slightly different problems due to lead consumption, including hypertension, higher blood pressure and issues with kidney production and sexual reproduction.

Old Infrastructure

The most common cause of lead in drinking water is due to old water transport systems, e.g. lead water pipes and pipe soldering in homes built before 1986. (In 1986, Congress passed an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 that prohibited the use of lead components in plumbing.) People cannot smell, see or taste lead in water. Furthermore, boiling water does not eliminate it.

Reducing Exposure

To reduce exposure to lead in drinking water, one of the EPA’s recommendations is for households to use “a water filter certified to reduce lead.” The Coway Aquamega 100 qualifies for this vital function, certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA) to reduce 99.8 percent of lead found in drinking water.