Chicago Plans to Test Water for Lead

It is no secret that lead can cause serious health problems, such as brain damage in young children, even in small amounts. Thus the City of Chicago said Monday that it will begin testing tap water on streets who face greater risk of exposure to the metal, according to the Chicago Tribune. The city said that they will have volunteers test the water before and after street mains are replaced, which can cause lead to seep into the water supply.

Lead pipes

Lead pipes, shown here, can release the metal’s particles into tap water. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Scuddr)

City officials say that water is safe because they insert a chemical that creates a protective layer inside lead pipes, but they do acknowledge that bursts of the metal can come out of taps in homes, especially if they have not been turned on in hours.

Most service lines are considered private property, so homeowners have to pay themselves to have them removed.  

Lead poisoning happens when levels of the metal accumulate in the body over months or years. Children under the age of six are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. The Chicago Tribune reported that even small levels of the metal can lead to learning disabilities and criminal behavior later in life. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there are no safe levels of lead.

The city has begun to send people a test kit to collect water in their homes and be sent in for further testing. They also have the option for people to have someone from the Department of Water Management come out to test the water. If one goes this route, they must be home and have not used their water in six hours.

They have started to post results of the testing. The results vary widely, from 1 part per billion to as high as 272 parts per billion, according to the Tribune. When the test reads over 15 parts per billion, the action limit set by the EPA, the Department of Water Management will contact the homeowner to discuss results, schedule a time to re-sample, and inspect the home’s plumbing and electrical wiring to assess possible causes.

The City of Chicago required the use of lead service lines until the mid-1980s, when many other cities had already outlawed them, the Tribune stated.

Residents with lead service lines should run the water for three to five minutes to flush them any time the water has not been running for several hours, the EPA recommended. It also recommended residents to purchase water filtration systems to flush total lead.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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