Trump EPA Balks at Protecting Kids From Lead Exposure

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, October 10, 2019

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposal for regulating lead in drinking water will leave millions of American children exposed to dangerous levels of the highly potent neurotoxin, which can cause permanent brain damage, warned the Environmental Working Group.

Today EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler unveiled the Trump administration’s proposal to update the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. The update proposes changes to regulations on lead in pipes that deliver water to homes but leaves unchanged the action level for lead in drinking water of 15 parts per billion, or ppb.

Public health groups, including EWG, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund have long advocated for a much tougher health-protective action level by EPA.

In 2009, the State of California set a public health goal for lead in drinking water at 0.2 ppb, to protect against harm to children’s brains and nervous systems. Public health goals are levels the state’s scientists say pose no appreciable risk.

In 2016, the Academy of Pediatrics pushed for a national commitment to eliminate all sources of lead exposure for children. The academy called on state and local governments to take all steps necessary to ensure that water fountains in schools not exceed water lead concentrations of 1 ppb.

“Instead of proposing a plan to protect children from the often lifelong damage caused by lead exposure, the Trump EPA is leaving communities to deal with the lead crisis on their own,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s vice president for science investigations. “In the most powerful country in the world, it should not be too much to ask that our children can grow up in a lead-free environment.”

“This is another shallow, half-baked proposal that underscores the continued failure of the Trump EPA to put forth policies that adequately protect American kids’ health,” said EWG President Ken Cook.  

The harmful impacts of lead exposure during childhood are permanent, including diminished IQ loss and behavioral problems. There is a strong scientific consensus that any amount of lead exposure during childhood is harmful. Lead was long ago removed from both gasoline and paint, but older homes could still have lead-based paint and lead-containing water delivery pipes.

For more information from EWG researchers on the threat to children from lead in drinking water, see “Lead in Tap Water: What Parents Should Know.” The article lists steps parents can take to find out whether their water contains lead as well as advice about how to reduce the levels in drinking water.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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