– ‘Sup you Beautiful Bastards, welcome to your extra morning news show. My name is Philip DeFranco. And today we’re going to be discussing the lead water crisis in the United States. When you hear the words “lead” and “water” in one place, most likely pops into your brain, Flint, Michigan. As we’ve covered on the main show before, Flint is the poster child for the country’s water quality issues. Back in 2014 city government officials decided to temporarily change the source of the city’s drinking water in an effort to save money. But those water pipes were aging, causing lead, a harmful neurotoxin, to leak into the water. And to make matters worse, officials didn’t treat the pipes with corrosion control chemicals, which could have prevented the lead from getting into the water. And all of this led to disastrous health consequences, especially for children. – [Offscreen] Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha conducted a study before and after Flint’s water source was changed. It showed the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels essentially doubled. – [Offscreen] Exposed children are at risk for a number of problems, including lower IQ scores, developmental delays, and behavioral issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. – I’ve noticed the speech, the articulation, and I’ve noticed… behaviors of anger. – Doctors say that there is no safe amount of lead for children. A child’s blood brain barrier is still incomplete, so that means that they absorb ingested lead at a much higher rate than adults which can lead to severe impacts on the developing bones and organs. Perhaps the most disturbing part about these health effects is that in many cases, they won’t even be known for months or even years down the road. While the nation’s attention has rightfully been focused on Flint when it comes to water safety, this problem is unfortunately much bigger than just one city. So to understand the magnitude of this issue, we had Cody Snell from the Rogue Rocket team jump into it. – [Cody] The water crisis in Flint was supposed to be a wake-up call. – [Offscreen] Can’t afford to treat Flint like it was some sort of an anomaly, and everybody feels sorry for the people of Flint. They’re grateful that it’s not happening to them. It’s happening to them. – Now that the Flint crisis has happened, it’s made me a lot more aware and I think I’ve just been so trustworthy of not only our government, our pipes, the foundation of the– where the water is coming from, that it’s not something that I’ve worried about. – More than 20 million people across the country get their water through lead pipes. – [Cody] A recent report showed that the United States still has a long way to go when it comes to protecting children from lead poisoning. Nationwide the CDC estimates that about 2.5 percent of children have high lead levels in their blood. In Flint, that number was double that amount in the year after the city switched its water source. But in many places, the figures are even worse. Much worse. A 2016 Reuters investigation looked at children’s blood lead tests in 34 states using data obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments. The investigation found that in nearly 3,000 areas, children have lead poisoning rates higher than Flint with about a third of those communities with rates four times higher than Flint. The source of the lead varies. Much of it comes from what’s known as legacy lead. Because lead-based paint wasn’t banned until 1979, many old houses are still likely to contain some lead. But as America’s infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate, lead in our water has become perhaps the most dangerous growing threat, with aging lead pipes being the most common source of lead in the water. The water it wasn’t until 1986, with the amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act, that the government mandated that any new water pipe or fixture had to be lead-free. But that means there are still more than six million service lines containing lead throughout the country, pipes that connect a house or building’s plumbing system to a municipalities water main. Most of these pipes were built in the early to mid 20th century and are only supposed to have a lifespan of about 75 to 100 years. Once they reach that expiration date, they are far more likely to corrode, seeping lead into drinking water. According to a study by William & Mary College, just 0.5 percent of these pipes are being replaced each year, meaning that it will take 200 years to replace the entire system. But while parents can take steps to make sure that the water pipes in their own houses are lead free, they have far less control over their children’s schools. And in the years since the Flint crisis, testing at many schools has revealed alarming results. – [Offscreen] Weeks ago, leaders in Ithaca were forced to shut off the drinking water at all schools after recent tests turned up high levels at 10 of 11 city schools. – [Offscreen] A mother is suing her daughter’s Pennsylvania School District for its delay in telling parents that the water at her school was contaminated with toxic levels of lead. – [Offscreen] [inaudible name]’s daughter, Paris, arrives at her first day of kindergarten at the Marcus Garvey Academy next week. None of the water fountains or faucets will be working because the water is contaminated. – [Cody] In March, a peer-reviewed released by the nonprofit group Environment America found that nearly two dozen states are failing to protect students from lead in drinking water. States were graded on five categories, ranging from testing protocols to public disclosure and transparency. Of the 32 states surveyed, a full 22 received a letter grade of F. John Rumpler, one of the co-authors of the study, told us that he was surprised to find that lead in schools is still so pervasive. – We looked at testing results from Washington to Illinois to Virginia, all across the country. And everywhere that schools are testing for lead, they’re finding it in their water. – [Cody] Another reason that so many states received a failing grade is because of inconsistent and limited testing. Under federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that only individual water systems be regularly tested for lead. The problem is only 8 to 11 percent of US schools operate their own water systems, such as well. That means about 90 percent of schools rely on municipal water systems for their drinking water And while that water is tested at the treatment plant, it is not federally required that it be tested after it goes through a school zone pipes, which is where lead contamination is most likely to occur. Even for states that do require schools to test their own water samples, Rumpler argues that the acceptable threshold of 15 parts per billion set by the EPA is still too high. – All of the medical practitioners are telling us now that lead can harm children at very low levels. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying lead in schools water should be limited to one part per billion. So 15 parts per billion, that’s 15 times more lead in our children’s water than the doctors are telling us should be the standard. – [Cody] Rumpler also says that testing doesn’t always show the full picture of a school’s potential lead problem. – Lead testing is so variable that it will often fail to detect the lead or the risk that’s there. There might be led in the water one day, but not the next and not the next and not the next, but then a big slug of lead. That’s just the way lead interacts with water. It’s not a constant thing. So the only thing we can do is to prevent contamination, rather than waiting for it to occur. – [Cody] The report is not all bad news, though. Several states have made major improvements in their efforts to shield children from lead poisoning, including California which still only received a grade of C plus. But that was an upgrade from 2017 when the state received an F. One of the biggest reasons for the change was the implementation of a new law, the first of its kind in the country. That law required each public water system to compile an inventory of all lead water service lines in the state and provide a timeline for removing these lines. But perhaps no area of the country has done a better job tackling the lead problem than the nation’s capital. Washington DC received the highest grade in Environment America’s report, a B+. DC schools previously had one of the worst lead problems in the country. Tests done in 1987 showed that some taps were dispensing water with lead levels more than five times the acceptable threshold And even twenty years later, 75 percent of schools were still over the EPA’s lead limit. But since then, the city has taken a number of steps become the national leader in lead protections – The number one saying that DC is doing right that other states are not is they are proactively installing filters on every faucet and fountain where kids go to drink their water. They are not waiting for test results to come back to confirm that kids have been drinking lead. Instead, they are proactively preventing the problem. – [Cody] Rumpler says that many states have been wary of mandating that schools install these filters because of fears over their cost. – The practical reality is that these filters do not cost a lot of money When you look at the costs of children’s behavioral problems and developmental growth and all of the health problems associated with lead contamination, it’s just staggering compared to the to the to the low costs of prevention, especially measures like filters. – [Cody] Today the lead levels in DC’s drinking water are some of the lowest in the nation, a goal the rest of the country should strive for. – In January, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reported that lead levels in Flint’s water were finally at their lowest level since the water crisis started which we really believe shows the importance of shining a national spotlight on this issue in order for officials to take our children’s public health, seriously. But with all that said now that you’ve heard but how Flint is far from the only US city who has to deal with this lead water problem, we would of course love to know your thoughts on this issue. Have you or someone you know been impacted by lead contamination? If you have a child, do you know when their school last test their water and if so is that information readily accessible? And given what we know about how harmful lead is for kids, Why do you think that so many states and so many communities have been so slow to react to this problem? I’ve know your thoughts in those comments down below. Also because I know that we’re talking about this, if you are worried about lead in your drinking water, the CDC recommends a few things. Only use cold water for drinking and cooking as hot water is more likely to have lead in it and it can’t be boiled away. If water has been sitting in your pipes for more than six hours, run cold water through your faucet for one or two minutes if the contamination is coming from inside your home. and then after you fill up a clean container with the water that you can use for drinking and cooking. Another easy step you can take is cleaning and changing the aerator on your faucet. And finally if you can try and install a filtration system on your tap that has been certified by an independent testing organization to reduce or eliminate lead. We’ll also include links down below for information about testing your water. But, that is where we’re gonna end today. Of course if you like this video you want to support the channel, be sure to hit that like button. Also if you’re new here you want more of the deep dives, the regular show, be sure to subscribe. But, with that said, of course as always, thanks for watching, I love your face, and I’ll see you right here back on this channel later today with a brand new Philip DeFranco show.