The schools in our area have completed water tests and have determined that the lead in the water is below the maximum contamination level (MCL), according to news in our local paper. I am not satisfied with these results, personally. The MCL is set at 15 parts per billion (ppb), which seems a tiny amount, in practical terms. However, this month the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement in their journal Pediatrics (1) emphasizing that the healthy amount of lead in drinking water is zero.
We know now, after several decades of tracking the impact of lead exposure and also the impact of efforts to reduce lead exposure, that lead in childhood leads to lifelong and sometimes costly, expensive problems for individuals and for our communities. Lead exposure is tied to numerous lifelong challenges including but not limited to lower intelligence, antisocial behavior, attention deficits, impaired kidney function and, during reproductive years, spontaneous abortions and poorer birth outcomes overall. Reducing lead exposure is something that everyone should be able to get behind, regardless of their political or religious leanings.
That said, we all balk at the costs of addressing lead, despite evidence that dollars spent now reduce might higher expenses later on. And – perhaps more to the point – we can’t make any decisions without good information. There’s a lot more we need to know to make decisions in this instance. What, exactly, are the lead levels for each school, including private schools? What are our city and country drinking water lead levels? Which bottled water companies report their sources and lead level information? What do we need to do to filter our own water successfully?
As a parent, I encourage my children to drink water. It’s healthier for their body, their brain, and their weight than any other beverage. But it’s hard to have faith that the water they drink is safe for them, without the information. As a health and medical writer with training in public health, and as a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, I am dissatisfied with the reporting locally.
Please take a moment to go to the journal Pediatrics and read this free position statement, which includes all the information you need to get started thinking about lead exposure.
- Prevention of Childhood Lead Toxicity. Pediatrics. July 2016, VOLUME 138 / ISSUE 1. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/1/e20161493