Millions of Americans may be drinking water with toxic levels of lead, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The new report finds more than 5,300 water systems across the US in violation of federal rules limiting levels of lead and copper in tap water.
The report found Tampa Bay area counties with problematic levels of lead. While many counties had lead and copper violations, Hillsborough, Polk and Sarasota counties are listed as “Lead Action Level Exceedances.” These systems “had more than 10 percent of their samples containing lead at more than EPA’s action level of 15 ppb where sampling was required to start or end between 2013 and 2015,” the Natural Resources Defense Council says.
“The vast majority of the violations were related to lead issues. A lot of them were for failure to test the water. Some of them were for failure to treat the water to ensure that there wasn’t lead,” Erik Olson with the Natural Resources Defense Council said.
The main concern is lead’s lasting effect on the developing brains of children, potentially leading to learning and behavior problems.
Flint, Michigan was one – extreme – example. That lead contamination occurred when the town’s water supply source was switched. Corrosive chemicals leached lead into the water supply.
Philadelphia has also been criticized for testing water in too few homes with lead service lines.
“You can’t see it. You can’t smell it, so it’s not something you can detect. The only way to really know if you’ve got lead is to have your water actually tested by a laboratory to find out if it’s got a problem,” Olson said.
If you have concerns about your home’s water, experts advise flushing the system by running the tap for a few minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.
Special water filters certified by NSF International may also help.