Alarming number of Chicago children may have been exposed to lead-contaminated water: study

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Alarming number of Chicago children may have been exposed to lead
What is lead? An alarming number of Chicago children may have been exposed to the element in drinking water. No exposure is safe, doctors say.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An alarming number of children in Chicago have been exposed to potentially harmful drinking water, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics

The study, published Monday in the medical journal, found nearly 2/3 of young children may be exposed to lead-contaminated water, with Black and Latino communities potentially exposed at even higher rates.

At 400,000, Chicago has more lead pipes than any other city in the country.

Mayor Brandon Johnson has pledged to tackle the problem of lead exposure, but replacing the pipes will take decades.

A recent study emphasizes the need for new pipes.

It finds 2/3 of children under the age of 6 are estimated to have been exposed to lead through their drinking water.

The study used machine learning and micro simulation to estimate childhood exposure citywide.

SEE ALSO: Chicago must replace over 400K lead pipes, could cost up to $12 billion

Dr. Rosibell Arcia-Diaz, a pediatrician at Cook County Health, said no amount of lead is safe for children.

"There's effects on the development of children that have been exposed to lead, their speech, their growth," Arcia-Diaz said.

It can also cause behavioral difficulties, like anxiety depression and aggression.

"There are certain things that can decrease absorption of lead, for example, iron or vitamin C," Arcia-Diaz said.

The city of Chicago offers free water filters to help reduce lead exposure, as does International Pure Water, which handed out 50 free filters back in December to North Lawndale residents.

"We're limited in our resources, of course, but we're doing our best to help the communities in Chicago," said Kenny Valentino, with International Pure Water.

Chicago also offers free lead testing kits, and said, if lead levels are too high, the city will send out a crew to share mitigation procedures.

The city said they are working toward a day where no child risks being exposed to lead.