Jul 08, 2020

Research Connects Private Wells & Lead Exposure in Children

According to a recent study, children drinking private well water have higher blood lead than those with access to community water systems

lead in drinking water

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed lead exposure in children who rely on private wells.

“Although the Flint, Michigan, water crisis renewed concerns about lead (Pb) in city drinking water, little attention has been paid to Pb in private wells, which provide drinking water for 13% of the US population,” said the study. 

The study evaluates the risk of lead exposure in children in households relying on private wells and is based on a curated dataset of blood lead records from 59,483 North Carolina children. Researchers analyzed the dataset for statistical associations between children’s blood Pb and household drinking water source. 

According to the findings, American children whose homes rely on private wells for drinking water are 25% more likely to have high lead levels in their blood than those with access to a community water system that is regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, reported the Guardian

The increased lead exposure is most likely a result of corrosion of household plumbing and well components, whereas corrosion control is required in regulated community water systems, according to the Guardian. 

Another notable aspect of the study is the finding that children living in older, lower-value houses suffered higher lead levels and had higher risks of elevated blood lead. The same goes for those in majority-black neighborhoods.

“Risks are especially high for children in low-income households and in African American neighborhoods that remain excluded from access to nearby municipal water service, a legacy of discriminatory zoning practices,” said Jackie MacDonald Gibson, author of the study and chair of the department of environmental and occupational health at the Indian University school of public health.

Gibson adds that the study highlights the need for an overhaul of the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide support for households relying on private wells.

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