Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children
Young children, infants, and babies during gestation are extremely vulnerable to lead exposure. A quantity of lead in water has a much more significant effect on growing children than on adults. For a child, even low levels of lead exposure are linked to damage to the nervous system. The symptoms parents may see in a child exposed to lead include, but are not limited to:
- Learning disabilities
- Slowed growth, shorter stature
- Hearing impairment
- Impaired formation and function of blood cells
- Developmental delays
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Infants exposed to lead before birth may be born prematurely, have a lower birth weight, or experience slowed growth.
Long Term Impact of Lead Poisoning
The tragedy in Flint, Michigan, could be just the beginning. Lead pipes are still in use in every state, with an estimate of six to ten million lead services lines in use in the USA. Illinois has more lead service lines than any other state, estimated to have a quarter of all lead pipes in the country. Lead poisoning in children can result in a lifetime of challenges. As the lead affects developing nerves and brains, the damage to the child’s health and cognitive abilities is permanent. The exposure to lead as a fetus, infant, or toddler can lead to permanent damage, including:
- Behavioral problems
- Attention problems
- Hearing problems
- Severe difficulties in education
- Reduced IQ
- Damaged kidneys
- Permanent brain damage
- Reproductive problems
The Safe Drinking Water Act
In 2020, the U.S. EPA published new regulations regarding the amount of lead that can be present in a range of products, including pipes, fittings, fixtures, solder, and flux (a compound used in soldering pipe joints). This Act prohibits the use of products produced with lead in homes and non-residential facilities that provide water for human consumption. While this is an important change, it does not address the fact that many people in the USA live in regions where lead pipes are still in use. In Flint, Michigan, the problem of toxic lead in water became a disaster for children.
The Flint Water Crisis – Bad Decisions and Water Contamination
The Flint water crisis came about when city leaders chose to switch the water supply as a cost-saving measure. Before the new water source could be used, new service lines needed to be put in place. In the interim, the city turned to the Flint River as a water source. The water from the river was not treated with a “corrosion inhibitor” called orthophosphate. The lack of ensuring the water from the river was treated with the chemical that keeps toxic lead stuck to the surface of the pipes, the water service lines in Flint were subject to severe corrosion, releasing high levels of lead into the water used by the community. Other city leaders have made similar mistakes, with high quantities of lead in city water in both Jackson, Mississippi, and in Benton Harbor, Michigan.