Fact Sheet

Lead Contamination

Region

National

NCEL Point of Contact

Mara Herman
Environmental Health Manager

Contact

Overview

The crisis in Flint, Michigan created a national effort to reduce lead contamination. The majority of lead contamination comes from lead paint and dust, but corrosion of plumbing fixtures that contain lead can lead to drinking water contamination posing significant health risks. Lead’s impacts on the brain and nervous system health effects ranging from anemia to low birth weight, and can also lead to cognitive impairment reducing lifetime earnings while increasing the need for special education. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative impacts of lead contamination because they are still developing and absorb more ingested lead than adults. Studies estimate that it would take approximately $400 billion and ten years to tackle America’s lead problem. New efforts seek to expand lead testing and reevaluate the level of lead in water that requires action.

Key Points

Key Point 1

Lead exposure can come from lead paint and associated dust, contaminated soil and water, food and other consumer products. (Environmental Protection Agency)

Key Point 2

Children are particularly susceptible because they absorb 4-5 times more ingested lead than adults, which can lead to significant and permanent effects on brain development and nervous systems. (World Health Organization)

Key Point 3

Approximately 6.1 million homes across the US currently have lead service lines connecting the home to drinking water sources. (Environmental Defense Fund)

Key Point 4

The current action level for lead in the US is 15 parts per billion (ppb) in more than 10% of water systems compared to Canada’s threshold of 5 ppb. (EPA)

Legislation

Several states have introduced policies to test and remediate lead exposure in high-impact areas.

  • Enacted legislation in New York (S.8158/A.10740) and Illinois (SB0550) requires testing for lead in public schools. NY also recently introduced a bill (A.1805) amending public health law to require continuous monitoring of lead exposure in children through 5th grade.
  • New Jersey introduced a bill requiring landlords to disclose the existence of lead service lines and lead water supply to tenants (S.4190)
  • Delaware passed a first-in-the-nation bill in 2018 that bans lead-based outdoor and industrial paint (HB 456).
  • Legislation previously introduced in Michigan would provide financing on water supply bills to replace residential lead pipe service lines (HB 5423).

Resources

NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Michigan's Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board Report

A Roadmap to Eliminating Child Lead Exposure

Go to resource
Costs of Lead Exposure and Remediation

This assessment evaluates the economic impacts of lead poisoning among Michigan children.

Go to resource
Prevention of Childhood Lead Toxicity - American Academy of Pediatrics

Policy statement on the prevention of childhood lead toxicity

Go to resource
Introduction to Lead and ​Lead Service Line Replacement - LSLR Collaborative

Overview resource of meaning and importance of lead and ​lead service line replacement

Go to resource
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