lead in water

Several New Jersey schools have shown levels of lead in drinking water far beyond what may be considered an acceptable level. Drinking enough of this water could lead to permanent injuries in children. This problem is not limited to New Jersey, according to an article in the Washington Post in June, which reported on research in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Unsafe blood lead levels have been found in children in Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Buffalo, Erie, Reading, Cleveland and Cincinnati. In these cities, an estimated 14% of kids (in some areas the number is higher) have unsafe levels of the toxic metal in their blood, according to new research. Though there have been long-term public health efforts to lessen lead exposure, many children live where they’re likely to be exposed to lead, which can cause lasting behavioral, mental and physical problems.

Harvey Kaufman, senior medical director at Quest Diagnostics, and two colleagues looked at more than 5.2 million blood tests for infants and children under age 6 taken between 2009 and 2015 from every state and the District of Columbia. They found:

  • Blood lead levels declined nationally during that period, but about 3% had lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter (what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers cause for concern).
  • In some parts of the country, including sections of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, more than one in seven children tested for elevated levels of lead in their blood.
  • Minnesota had the highest overall rate with elevated blood lead levels in 10.3% of the samples.
  • The next highest states were Pennsylvania (7.8%), Kentucky (7.1%), Ohio (7%) and Connecticut (6.7%).

Risk factors for blood poisoning include:

  • Drinking water contaminated by lead leached out through pipes and plumbing
  • Living where there is a lot of pre-1950’s construction, when lead-based paints and lead pipes were common
  • Living in poverty. Children living in zip codes with higher poverty rates had a higher percentage of elevated blood lead levels. Those living in more wealthy zip codes were much less likely to have the same problem.

In 2012 a federal advisory committee estimated there are nearly a half million American children with blood lead levels above the CDC threshold. Public health officials have long warned there is no known safe level of lead in the blood. Even small amounts can contribute to a range of problems, such as:

  • Lower IQs
  • Shortened attention spans
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Hypertension
  • Anemia
  • Damage to the kidneys and reproductive organs.

The health risks of lead exposure have been known for centuries, but the public response to eliminate lead as a threat to public health has been inconsistent.

  • Sixteen years ago the federal government issued a plan “to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in the United States as a major public health problem by the year 2010, “by removing lead in homes, increasing blood lead screenings and follow-up care for at-risk children.”
  • That goal and those plans have come up short, due in part to insufficient Congressional funding for abatement programs.
  • A newer government initiative has a goal of eliminating elevated blood lead levels in children by 2020, which may be an overly optimistic target without more aggressive measures.

If you believe your child has been harmed by high levels of lead in drinking water in New Jersey schools, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao  at (973) 358-6134 or fill out our contact form so we can discuss your child’s situation, how the law may apply and how you can protect your child’s legal rights and possibly seek compensation for your child’s injuries.