Think Flint’s Lead Contamination Problem Is Bad? Think Again.

Flint, Michigan, has gotten worldwide attention because of the problems residents have with water contaminated with lead. When local officials switched water supplies to one with more acidic water, it caused the lead in water pipes and fittings to leach out into drinking water. Reuters recently investigated the issue nationwide and found about 3,000 communities in the U.S. where lead contamination is worse than in Flint, though these communities receive virtually no public attention. Many New Jersey school systems have come under scrutiny after water tests showed high levels of lead.

Reuters, after reviewing public health records, found nearly 3,000 areas where recently recorded lead poisoning rates were at least double that of Flint in the peak of the city’s contamination crisis. More than 1,100 of these areas had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher. The areas span the country, in rural and urban areas. Reuters found:

  • Within 15 blocks of a house in St. Joseph, Missouri, at least 120 children have been poisoned by lead since 2010, making the neighborhood among the most toxic in Missouri. Even a local pediatrician’s children were poisoned.
  • In Warren, Pennsylvania, 36% of children have tested with high lead levels.
  • In a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, a quarter of children tested showed lead showed poisoning.
  • In parts of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, lead poisoning has spanned decades, and the rate of elevated lead test results over the last ten years was 40% to 50%.

No matter the location, Reuters found people whose lives have been impacted by lead exposure. Those dealing with lead poisoning are mostly poor, but victims are poor and rich, live in rural and urban areas, are black and white. This lead poisoning can come from crumbling paint, plumbing or industrial waste left behind from closed factories.

Where lead poisoning is common, many children have developmental delays and start out their lives behind children who have avoided dangerous lead exposure. In kids up to age six, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set a threshold for an elevated blood lead level at five micrograms per deciliter. A child who tests high deserves a public health response, according to the CDC, because even a slight elevation can reduce IQ and stunt development.

Across the country the agency estimates that 2.5% of small children have elevated lead levels. In the communities identified by Reuters, a far greater percentage of children tested positive for lead poisoning.

Reuters found that in many areas local health officials are facing limited funding while their populations are suffering from high levels of lead poisoning and many small children at risk are not being tested. South Bend, Indiana, is one example where lead testing has sharply fallen while current data shows a serious problem.

In one area of the city 31% of small children tested from 2005 to 2015 had high lead levels, a rate more than six times Flint’s rate last year. The area, 1.5 miles from the green, well-kept and famous campus of the University of Notre Dame, is home to about 250 children; it is filled with old dwellings containing lead paint and water pipes and fixtures with lead and has one of the highest poverty rates in the city.

Many children living in New Jersey also suffer from high levels of lead in their bodies, sometimes as the result of drinking lead-contaminated water in their schools. This poisoning can have serious short- and long-term consequences.

If you believe your child may be suffering from lead poisoning which you believe may be linked to lead in school drinking water, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at F:P:Sub:Phone} or fill out our contact form so we can talk about your child’s situation, how the law may apply in your case and your best options to protect your child’s and your family’s legal rights.