Have you ever turned on your faucet in the morning and discovered the water streaming through your pipes was discolored? Sometimes natural events - such as floods and hurricanes - are to blame. But imagine if you started seeing water that looked and smelled foul coming through your pipes day in and day out and city officials assured you everything was fine, only for you to learn later that it wasn’t.
This is exactly what happened to more than 100,000 residents in Flint, Michigan -- and studies show that each year, millions of people in the United States in other regions are still being exposed to unsafe drinking water due to lead contamination.
A brief look at what happened in Flint
In April 2014, city officials in Flint, Michigan, switched its drinking water supply from the Detroit city system to the Flint River in an effort to reduce costs. The new water was highly corrosive, but city officials failed to treat it properly. As a result, lead from aging pipes leached into the water supply in the region exposing thousands of people to elevated levels of lead.
Although residents noticed almost immediately that there was a serious problem with the quality of the water, for months, city officials denied that there was an issue1. By the time officials admitted that the water in Flint was contaminated with lead 18 months later, it was too late to reverse the damage.
Preventing another similar crisis
There are no safe levels of lead, especially for children and pregnant women. The effects this crisis had on local residents are sadly abundantly apparent2. We know that the lead had a large effect on fetal deaths, and the 30,000 school children who were exposed to lead and the neurotoxin it contains during this time are experiencing neurological and behavioral problems today3.
Despite this, research shows that the water crisis in the United States continues. Just like in Flint, an abundance of tests results suggest that the lead levels in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are high4. Just like in Flint, officials are cutting corners by violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. And just like in Flint, they are not communicating with residents about the elevated levels and refuse to provide filters to all of the residents who are affected.
Studies show that people throughout the United States are exposed to unsafe drinking water, not just in Newark, but throughout the entire country. Pittsburgh, Detroit, and other industrial cities have discovered unsafe levels of lead in their water -- and been accused of downplaying its prevalence5. In 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards6.
What you can do
Even the most vigilant consumers may still not be aware of issues affecting the safety of their drinking water due to poor or negligent communication on the part of city officials. However, there are precautions we can all take to mitigate our risk of drinking water that contains lead and other contaminants.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of exposure to toxins through your drinking water is to use a water filter. The Aquagear Filter Pitcher is tested to remove 99.9% of lead from tap water. In 2016, in light of the crisis in Flint, we took Aquagear there and put it to the test. We tested the Aquagear Filter Pitcher on water from a Flint residence that contained four times the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit of lead. The result? The Aquagear filter reduced lead to undetectable levels, according to a post-filtration test by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Using a water filter requires little effort, but has a big impact on your ability to have confidence the water you are drinking is completely safe for you and your family.
- Lead-Laced Water In Flint: A Step-By-Step Look At The Makings Of A Crisis. (2016, April 20). Retrieved from NPR.
- Lead Poisoning and Health. (2019, August 23). Retrieved from World Health Organization.
- Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water. (2019, November 6). Retrieved from New York Times.
- Newark Drinking Water Crisis. What’s At Stake: Lead-contaminated drinking water is threatening the health of Newark’s residents. (n.d.). Retrieved from NRDC.
- 12 Cities with the Worst Tap Water in the US. (2020, March 17). Retrieved from Business Insider.
- National Trends in Drinking Water Quality Violations. (2018, February 27). Retrieved from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.