The horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan has put spotlight on the fast-growing water quality issue in the United States.
This led to multiple organizations to start looking deeper into this situation, and what they’ve found is unsettling.
While the growing alternative health movement has been sternly focused on avoiding chemicals that are deliberately added to our water supply, especially fluoride, the deteriorating conditions of our water infrastructure is also bringing high levels of lead right into our homes, and it shows no signs if slowing any time soon.
Flint was the first warning that things needed to change, and we still have a long way to go before we can fully trust that our water is as safe as we need it to be. For now, the best thing we can do is educate ourselves, and rely on the power of natural healing to mitigate the effects of what is becoming an increasingly polluted water system.
USA Today, CNN: Lead, Other Problems Not Just Relegated to Flint
According to a report published in March from the USA Today Network, it has been found that over 2,000 water systems across 50 states are violating federal regulations on “safe” lead and copper levels in drinking water (even though there is absolutely no safe limit when it comes to lead).
The CNN TV network also discovered that over 5,300 U.S. water systems are polluted.
All of these systems are estimated to affect about 18 million people; and the danger lies not only at home: offices and other work places, including schools and daycare centers where children are present, are also affected.
The reasons for this growing hazard are:
- Utility companies are finding loopholes in testing methods to scam the system.
- States and the EPA are failing the people; they do nothing while fully aware of the problem.
- The residents of affected areas are often left in the dark.
Since the government is not doing enough, it is up to us to test our own waters, speak out if we find issues of concern, and most importantly, either filter our tap water or buy filtered water at grocery and health food stores.
How Many People Are Affected?
“Americans take it for granted that the water flowing from their home taps is clean and safe, but all too often that assumption is wrong. Shoddy data collection, lax enforcement of the law, and cities gaming the system have created a potent brew of lead violations and unsafe drinking water from the water supplies used by millions of people across the nation,” said Erik Olson, Health Program Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
In 2015, it was estimated that about 17 million people used contaminated water provided by water systems that failed the federal safety guidelines. The NRDC estimated it to be well over 18 million. The NRDC also stated that up to 22 million people are served tap water that uses pipes that are able to release lead into the water.
The organization published a report in June 2016 that provides details on every aspect of the lead and copper contamination program, and also provides a map of the areas affected.
A list of all water systems by name that received a report of violation is available on the NRDC’s report, pages 22-37.
You can also find out your risk level for contaminated water by looking at the map provided by MyTapScore.
Why Is Lead Dangerous?
Every health agency agrees that there is absolutely no safe limit of lead. Even the smallest amounts have serious adverse effects on human health. It is especially bad for children, whose bodies and brains are not yet fully developed and are more susceptible to harm.
Lead exposure in children leads to damage of the brain and the nervous system, affecting cognition, behavior, and their ability to concentrate.
The World Health Organization has stated that “the consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behavior. Because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”
Adult exposure negatively affects the heart, kidneys, blood pressure and cognition.
Utility Companies Lie About Lead Levels
When lead contamination happens, it costs the utility companies a lot of extra money to fix the situation.
Unfortunately, this combined with weak regulatory language has led to the companies to “scam the system” by finding loopholes in testing that fail to measure and catch high levels of lead in water. They purposefully use “flawed or questionable testing methods” to avoid the truth.
These methods include selecting the homes to test that are most likely to be safe from lead contamination, and taking water samples slowly to reduce levels of lead.
This is a violation of law, and it also puts the unknowing public in danger.
Government Agencies Fail the Residents
There are two lines of enforcement to keep an eye on the utility companies and make sure they are doing their job – providing safe drinking water. The two are local state governments and the EPA; and both have failed over and over again. They failed to intervene in Flint; they failed on many more occasions.
Lead problems have been reported in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Maine, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and across most other states.
Failure to address these problems can be seen at different stages of contamination. The first is failure to treat water to avoid contamination. The second is failure to test public water systems. And the third is failure to report contamination to people when it happens, so they can take measures to protect themselves.
The NRDC reported that only about 10% of water system problems get addressed by the EPA. Penalties are enforced in just 3% of violations.
“A whopping nine out of ten of these water rule violations never faced any formal enforcement. That’s inexcusable,” said Olson.
What needs to happen is serious money put into national water infrastructure: old pipes need to be replaced, many parts of the water distribution system need to be repaired, and better water treating techniques need to be applied.
While people are waiting for these changes to happen at the government level, and hoping that these organizations will finally step up to their job responsibilities, there are things each person can do at home to protect themselves and their families from lead-contaminated water.
Testing Your Tap Water: What To Do If Your Water Is Contaminated?
The EPA does provide annual water quality reports that are available due to the Safe Water Drinking Act. However, seeing the EPA’s many failures, many people choose to take water testing into their own hands.
Water can be ordered to be tested by state certified labs.
Even if the test comes back clean, every test has its limitations and it can miss contaminants.
Many grocery chains around the country also sell filtered water by the gallon that can be refilled at the water stations. At the end of the day, as these test results show, it’s up to each individual person to take matters into their own hands until we the day we finally begin prioritizing the purity of our water supply systems as a country again.