April 17, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

Two-thirds of Chicago kids under 6 could be exposed to lead in water, study estimates

2 min read

More than two-thirds of young children in Chicago could be exposed to lead-contaminated water, according to an estimate by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The research, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, estimated that 68 percent of children under the age of 6 in Chicago are exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water. Of that group, 19 percent primarily use unfiltered tap water, which was associated with a greater increase in blood lead levels.

“The extent of lead contamination of tap water in Chicago is disheartening—it’s not something we should be seeing in 2024,” lead author Benjamin Huynh, assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a news release.

The study suggested that residential blocks with predominantly Black and Hispanic populations were less likely to be tested for lead but also disproportionately exposed to contaminated water.

Researchers used artificial intelligence to extrapolate on 38,385 tap water tests collected from January 2016 to September 2023, provided by the Chicago Department of Water Management.

High levels of lead exposure can cause severe brain and central nervous system damage, leading to intellectual disabilities, behavioral disorders, coma, convulsions, and death, according to the World Health Organization.

Children affected by the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., nearly a decade ago, suffered significant and lasting academic setbacks, according to a separate study released earlier this month.

The Environmental Protection Agency in November proposed regulation that would require all water utilities in the United States to replace their lead pipes, most within 10 years, in an undertaking that it said could cost $45 billion. The proposal is open for public comment before it is finalized, which the EPA expects by mid-October.

More than 9.2 million households connect to water through lead pipes and lead service lines, disproportionately affecting low-income communities and people of color, according to the Biden administration. About 400,000 of those are in Chicago, the most of any US city.

The city of Chicago has several programs for replacing lead pipes, including free replacement for low-income homeowners and for some licensed day cares. In November, it borrowed more than $336 million from the EPA to replace about 30,000 lead pipes.


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