Lead Exposure through Water Contamination
Although Congress banned lead pipes three decades ago, lead exposure remains a concern in the United States, particularly following the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. New pipes may not contain lead, but residents can still be exposed to lead through older pipes already in place. Lead poisoning can cause mental and physical dysfunction, especially in young children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that there is no safe level of lead exposure in children; even tiny amounts can be harmful. Lead poisoning is deadly at very high levels.
The environmental attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over alleged environmental hazards, including lead poisoning and contaminated drinking water. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a water contamination lawsuit.
Lead exposure can have various sources, including lead-based paint and lead dust in older buildings. In some instances, lead may also enter the drinking water. According to the EPA website, lead can contaminate the drinking water when lead pipes corrode. This can occur when the water is highly acidic or has low mineral content. “The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water, especially hot water,” the agency states.
Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous in young children, who are susceptible to the physical and behavioral effects of lead exposure. According to the CDC, even low levels of lead exposure can cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, hearing problems and abnormal formation and function of blood cells.
Lead is also toxic in adults, and can cause cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, kidney problems and reproductive problems.
Concerns over Lead in the Drinking Water
Concerns over water contamination and lead exposure gained momentum in light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The ongoing issue started in 2014, when the city changed its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. However, officials failed to properly treat the water supply after switching sources, which proved to be a serious error. Since the new water was not treated with corrosion inhibitors, the Flint River water caused lead to enter the drinking water, exposing 6,000 to 12,000 children to high levels of lead. In December 2015, the city declared a state of emergency.
The lead-tainted drinking water remains an issue in Flint. In 2016, the Detroit News reported that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver renewed the city’s emergency declaration. “The fact of the matter is we still cannot drink our water without a filter,” Weaver said in a statement. “That is why I have signed a declaration to renew the state of emergency in the City of Flint until the lingering issues have been resolved and the water is deemed safe to drink.”
Unfortunately, Flint is not the only city to have faced lead-tainted drinking water. According to a New York Times article published in February 2016, testing in 2015 showed that the drinking water in the town of Sebring, Ohio contained high levels of lead. The lead contamination occurred after workers stopped treating the water with an anti-corroding agent. NYT reports that five months passed before the city warned pregnant women and children against drinking the water.
Washington, D.C. also had its own water contamination problems after changing how it disinfected its drinking water in 2001. According to NYT, lead levels jumped up to 20 times the federally approved level following the change. Residents did not learn of the issue for three years. Once the problem became known, federal officials tore out lead pipes leading to 17,600 homes. But three years later, they learned that these actions only prolonged the presence of the lead in the water.
“We have a lot of threats to the water supply,” said Dr. Jeffrey K. Griffiths, a professor of public health at Tufts University and a former chairman of the E.P.A.’s Drinking Water Committee, according to the NYT article. “And we have lots of really good professionals in the water industry who see themselves as protecting the public good. But it doesn’t take much for our aging infrastructure or an unprofessional actor to allow that protection to fall apart.”
Filing a Drinking Water Contamination Lawsuit
Parker Waichman has spent years representing clients in lawsuits over environmental health risks. If you or someone you know is interested in filing a drinking water contamination lawsuit, speak with one of our environmental attorneys today. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).