15 U.S. Senators are pleading with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take further steps to safeguard people from lead in tap water during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.
The senators, led by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are calling for a lower lead limit in drinking water, the replacement of lead pipes within the next ten years, and remediation measures that equally benefit low-income neighborhoods.
Older, lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately affected by lead service lines (LSLs), which constitute an intolerable health risk.
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The senators noted that black children in particular have greater blood lead levels than white children do, are more likely to be poisoned by lead than white children are, and are more likely to reside in communities with LSLs.
Concerningly little information is available on the levels of lead in drinking water and LSLs in Native American communities, making it impossible to provide mitigation measures to those who need them the most. Due to their higher cumulative danger from lead exposure, disadvantaged low-income and communities of color must receive priority support.
The United States has banned lead pipes since 1986, but many houses and communities still use outdated infrastructure, according to The Guardian. As a result, millions of people now risk drinking water contaminated with lead. Lead exposure in children may result in brain damage, developmental delays, seizures, comas, or even early demise. Adult exposure to lead may have negative consequences on the cardiovascular system, the reproductive system, and renal function.
In addition to $11.7 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which can also be used to replace lead pipes, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of the Biden administration has given $2.9 billion to the EPA for states, Tribes, and territories to remove lead service lines. The senators said that the EPA must make sure that localities do not charge residents for replacing lead pipes and that more money should be allocated to preventing lead contamination of drinking water.
Regardless of a homeowner’s financial situation, service lines should be completely rebuilt, and the cost should cover any necessary repairs to the residence.
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The senators stated that Newark, New Jersey, has demonstrated that this can be done swiftly, effectively, and fairly while generating union jobs with decent compensation for locals.
The senators are also urging the EPA to strengthen the Lead and Copper Rule by the end of 2023. This includes requiring full, as opposed to partial, lead service line replacements, improving lead monitoring standards, updating treatment standards to make water less corrosive and prevent lead from leaching into the water from plumbing, lowering the acceptable lead level to no more than five parts per billion, and increasing public awareness of lead risks through increased public outreach and notifications. The letter requests that residents be given access to at-home lead testing kits as a last request.