Water pollution is a major problem in the United States. All over the world, water pollution is increasingly becoming a major public health concern as statistics show rising level of pollution in major waterways. Since sustenance of life on earth depends on water, water pollution is a major threat to life on earth. As more waterways become polluted, the amount of clean water available for domestic use is decreasing at an alarming rate. The most source of pollution emanates from human effort to make their lives better, but an animal, on land and in the ocean, becomes the major culprit of the rising level of water pollution. For example, recent studies have revealed that whales have a higher concentration of carcinogenic chemicals which are endangering their lives. Water pollution is particularly dangerous because all these chemical pollutants may end up in our bodies, which will come with devastating health consequences.
Lead is one of the common and dangerous water pollutants. Lead pollution is made worse by the fact that it may be difficult to monitor as the sources cannot be easily detected. It cannot be detected unless complex laboratory testing is carried out since it cannot be smelt or tasted. In most countries, lead pollution is a major problem that is affecting the quality of drinking water.
Drinking water has been identified as a major source of lead pollution, accounting for around 20% of all cases of lead pollution. Different research studies have revealed that majority of lead pollution occurs through drinking water which implies that water is a well-known medium for lead pollution. Apart from drinking water, lead pollution can also occur due to the accumulation of lead in animals like fish which are later taken as food by humans. However, the plumbing system has been identified as the major source of lead pollution.
In the Eastern United States, lead pollution is already identified as a major problem in major cities. Water analysis reports show that there is a high amount of lead in the most public water system that is endangering lives of millions of Americans inhabiting these cities. A number of research studies, especially on school children, have revealed the elevated amount of lead in their bodies as a result of drinking lead contaminated water.
Although lead has been detected in public water in different cities in the Eastern United States, this paper looks at the elevated level of lead in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Research studies in these two cities reveal that lead is a major public health concern as water analysis shows an elevated level of lead beyond the recommended levels.
A study that was carried out by Bryant (2004) on lead contamination in drinking water in Philadelphia public schools found out that there are high levels of lead beyond the recommended levels. The study identified that young children, between the ages of 1 to 6 years are at particular risk of lead contamination, and is the main reason why the researchers decided to focus on public school drinking water. The researcher collected water from 292 public schools and later analyzed it for lead levels. The study found out that 124 schools (42.5%) had lead levels which did not exceed 20 ppb, the recommended amount by EPA. A total of 28.7% of school buildings showed lead levels between 20pb to 50 ppb while 11.6% had lead levels between 50-100 ppb. 17.1% of the schools had lead levels exceeding 100 ppb (Bryant, 2004).
This study showed that lead pollution was a major problem for most public schools in Philadelphia. The study concluded that 57.4% of the school buildings had water lead levels which exceeded the 20ppb threshold which is usually recommended by Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Lead pollution occurs as the level of lead accumulated in the body increases. This means that depending on the amount of water that could be drunk by a student there was a risk of increased exposure to lead pollution even during their formative years. This study serves as a wake-up call for authorities in Philadelphia to act and reduce the level of lead contamination.
The same cars are replicated in Washington DC. For a long time now, Washington D.C has been grappling with the problem of lead pollution in public drinking water system. Water analysis result has shown elevated levels of lead in public drinking water but as Duggan (2008) points out, there has been little will to change the lead infested water carrying pipes in Washington. D.C Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) has for long pointed out that the city is suffering from the problem of lead contamination in water delivery pipes but little progress has been achieved. Since 2004, WASA has been working to replace pipes in more than 35,000 homes in D.C to reduce the risk of lead pollution (Duggan, 2008). To mitigate the situation before full replacement of the pipes, WASA has introduced orthophosphate chemical treatment of water but this is just a short term solution that may not solve the major problem of water lead pollution.
WASA analysis had shown that before the chemical treatment method was introduced, more than 90% of homes had water with lead levels exceeding the EPA set limit (Duggan, 2008). This posed a great public health danger to most people in the city. After the chemical treatment was introduced, the water level reduced significantly to or less than the set EPA limit of 15 ppb. However, there is still a major problem of lead pollution in D.C as other studies, especially on young elementary pupils, reveal rising level of lead in the body which can be attributed to lead pollution.
From the above two articles, it is evident that lead pollution remains a major problem in public health despite the efforts that have been taken to deal mitigate the problem. Lead pollution in water comes from different courses. Lead in drinking water enters mainly from corrosion and wearing away of water pipes which contain lead, or mixing water with materials containing lead. Most materials that contaminate water include lead based solder which is used to weld copper pipes together, brass and chrome brass faucets, and even from pipes which are made using lead.
Lead has numerous health effects. It can lead to health impairment and diseases occur due to long term exposure to lead. The severity and frequency of health effects occur with the increase in lead concentration in the blood. In the short term, lead poisoning can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, insomnia, fatigue, headache, anemia, and others. However, long term exposure may lead to disease condition and damage in blood formation, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems.
Lead poisoning poses a great risk to all people in the society. However, children appear to be at more risk owing to the effect of lead during development years. As has been reviewed in the above study by Bryant (2004) children are at an increased risk especially in the formative development years as lead can impair with the nervous and reproductive system. Therefore, authorities need to do all they can to reduce lead pollution in water.