(RightWing.org) – Lead (chemical symbol Pb) has been known to be a health risk for decades, particularly to children. In 1978, for example, the use of paint containing the substance was outlawed for use in homes and apartments in America, but the risk still exists from other sources. Sometimes problems make the news, but in all too many cases, the public at large remains ignorant of the dangers that surround them.
As the United States increased in population, the demand for water also grew. To keep up with that growth, water was pumped to homes through underground lead pipes. Perhaps the best-known incident in recent history was the news that came out of Flint, Michigan in 2015, where homes were found to have levels of lead that went beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would classify as hazardous waste.
According to a 2021 study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the number of “lead service lines” — the pipes that connect residences to the water mains under the streets — could be as high as 12 million, and as many as 22 million people could be impacted. Although many states and municipalities do not track exact numbers, the authors of the report say the problem exists in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Lead plumbing was also used inside many of the older homes in the country, and even after copper became the prevalent material, solder used to join them together often contained lead. Some experts believe the only way to make drinking water safe from the hazardous element is to replace all the older pipes — estimates for that massive infrastructure upgrade program run from $28 billion to $60 billion.
For more than 50 years, lead was added to the world’s gasoline supply to make automobile engines run better and more smoothly, but its effects still linger. In more urbanized areas, the soil picked up the contaminants from the car exhaust, and to this day, there is a cycle where dust and dirt can become airborne and then fall back to earth, which allows people to breathe in the particles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the use of lead in toys is still permitted and continues to be used, particularly in those items imported from overseas, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and antiques and collectibles. They warn that a breakdown of the chemical bond between the lead and the plastics used in the manufacturing process can deteriorate with exposure to “sunlight, air, and detergents,” allowing dangerous dust to form.
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