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Fact Sheet - Lead
Lead can damage a child's central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive system and, at higher levels, can cause coma, convulsions, and death.
Even low levels of lead are harmful and are associated with decreased intelligence, impaired neurobehavioral development, decreased stature and growth, and impaired hearing acuity.
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 500,000 children living in the United States have lead levels in their blood that are high enough to cause irreversible damage to their health.
The EPA has set the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for lead to zero because they believe this level of protection is needed to prevent the numerous potential health problems.
The Action Level for lead in drinking water has been set at 15 parts per billion (ppb) because EPA believes, given present technology and resources, this is the lowest level to which water systems can reasonably be required to control this contaminant should it occur in drinking water at their customers' home taps.
A lifetime of exposure to lead above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) has the potential to cause stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.
Lead may occur in drinking water either by contamination of the source water used by the water system, or by corrosion of lead plumbing or fixtures. Corrosion of plumbing is by far the greatest cause for concern.
Lead exposure can harm fetuses and young children.
Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead than those of adults.
EPA estimates that there are about 10 million lead service lines or connections. About 20 percent of all public water systems have some lead service lines or connections within their distribution system.
Housing built before 1950 is more likely to contain lead-based paint, which can be ingested by young children in the form of dust or paint chips. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 97% of all pre-1950 homes contain some lead-based paint.
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