Elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, brought to light not only the troubles of one city but also broader concerns about the nation’s aging water distribution system. As Earth Day approaches, a noted scientist is calling for federal funding to replace deteriorating lead pipes in large swaths of the United States. In an editorial, Jerald Schnoor outlines recommendations on how to address the issue in ACS’ Journal of Chemical Education.
Many cities’ infrastructures — particularly in the eastern U.S. — were built before the dangers of lead in drinking water were widely recognized. Now scientists know that ingesting too much lead can affect children’s development and adults’ health. While water managers use chemical strategies at treatment plants to try to prevent lead from leaching into water supplies, Schnoor says this approach isn’t sufficient to keep drinking water safe all the way to the tap.