Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have instant access to clean drinking water.
When you picture this scenario, you probably automatically imagine a third-world country, where regular access to clean water is not only a luxury, but a luxury many have never experienced, and probably never will.
Unfortunately, lack of access to safe, drinkable water is a problem that hits a lot closer to home than you ever could have imagined.
If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you have probably heard of the Flint water crisis. The city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source to save money, resulting in the exposure of residents to lead-tainted water.
What you may not have heard is that Flint is not the only city in the United States dealing with the consequences of lead-tainted water. According to The Washington Post, it is estimated that children under six years of age in at least 12 states across the country are being exposed to dangerous amounts of lead in drinking water.
How does this happen?
Schools. Only one in ten schools is required by the federal government to test for lead contamination in public drinking water. So while we can predict how many people, children especially, are being impacted by the issue, we have no idea of how far the problem reaches.
What are the effects?
Lead poisoning has severe and long-lasting effects on those exposed to it, children being of greatest concern. Too much lead in the bloodstream can cause anemia, high blood pressure and issues in the kidneys, nervous and reproductive systems. Developing fetuses and young children may suffer irreversible neurological consequences such as learning disabilities, mental retardation and, in extreme cases, coma and death.
If water isn’t tested for higher than average levels of lead, it can reach children not just through water fountains and hand washing, but also through cooking in school cafeterias. Not every school and daycare facility is required by law to test for lead in water. While they can test even when they aren’t required to, many don’t. Water contaminated with lead also doesn’t appear contaminated; by sight, you would never know the difference.
Lead contamination in public drinking water is a problem not just in Flint, Michigan, but all over the country.