Testing lead in water will allow families to detect and reduce their lead exposure
Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) is making Lead in Water Action Kits available to families across the U.S. so they can test their tap water for the presence of lead and take action to reduce exposure. HBBF has partnered with Virginia Tech to offer an in-home kit that can detect most lead hazards in water. Each family's water samples are sent for analysis to Virginia Tech's lab - the same lab that uncovered lead contamination in Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Flint, Mich. The family then receives its test results, along with a customized report that includes concrete actions the family can take to reduce lead exposure.
The ongoing problem with lead in drinking water has been brought back to the nation's attention with the crisis in Flint. According to a poll conducted last week by ORC Intl. on behalf of Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Americans' concern about lead in their own drinking water is highest among women (62%), parents of young children (69%), African Americans (75%) and Hispanic Americans (75%).
"We want to ensure that all Americans can drink tap water without worrying about lead contamination," said HBBF Executive DirectorCharlotte Brody. "Every household, particularly those in low-income neighborhoods and in older homes where the risk is highest, needs to be able to test their water to see if they have a problem and, if they do, understand exactly what they can do to reduce their exposure."
The only way to detect a hazard in a home's tap water is to test the water coming out of the tap. Even water that is safe coming out of the local water utility might become contaminated with lead as it runs through lead service line and plumbing that contains lead.
"This problem unfortunately goes well beyond Flint," said Dr. Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech. "Our nation's water infrastructure is aging and sometimes contains lead hazards. And there is no reliable source of data telling us where there's a lead problem. This testing can be used to detect lead hazards in water and inform appropriate actions, if necessary, to reduce exposures."
Health professionals and scientists now understand that there is no safe level of lead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that, "Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement." The impact of exposure to lead on the brain is greatest during the first 1,000 days of development, so addressing the problem is most critical for pregnant women, those who are trying to become pregnant and families with children under two years of age.
The price for each test kit is $65, which covers the cost to HBBF, including shipping the sample bottles to the lab at Virginia Tech and the analysis of the water samples. If a family cannot afford the full cost of a kit, there is an option for the family to pay what it can afford. Families also may choose to pay for other families' kits.
HBBF also will provide an analysis of the national data from the test kit results to draw further attention to the issue of lead in water and to build support for individual and broader actions to fix the underlying problems. Participating families are not only solving their own lead exposure problems but are also helping to identify areas of risk across the country.