A Fix for Fixtures: Addressing Lead Contamination in West African Drinking Water.

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Author: Nate Seltenrich
Date: Aug. 2021
From: Environmental Health Perspectives(Vol. 129, Issue 8)
Publisher: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,193 words
Lexile Measure: 1780L

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Lead in drinking water is an issue of global concern. (1) New research published in Environmental Health Perspectives documents the problem in previously unexamined areas of rural West Africa, (1) further indicating the wide reach of this harmful contaminant.

Lead rarely occurs naturally in drinking water; most often it leaches from lead-bearing plumbing components, such as pipes, solder, or brass fittings. Characteristics of the piped water, such as low pH level or low phosphate content, can cause these components to corrode over time, allowing the metal to contaminate drinking water. (2)

Health scientists have not identified a safe level of lead exposure. (3) In children, even low-level exposures may cause nervous system damage, learning disabilities, shorter stature, hearing loss, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. (4) Worldwide, an estimated 800,000 children have blood lead levels at or above 5 [micro]g/dL, (5) the concentration at which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend intervention. (6)

In the new study, a team of researchers based at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Water Institute sampled 261 community water systems (hand pumps and public taps) in rural areas of Ghana, Mali, and Niger.

In 9% of drinking water samples, lead concentrations exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline value of 10 [micro]g/L. (4) Additional testing of metal scrapings obtained from plumbing system components identified lead-containing brass fittings as an important source of contamination, with galvanized steel and other lead-containing materials as secondary sources. The authors concluded that their results are broadly comparable to those obtained from studies in many high-income countries. (7,8,9) In 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Program reported analyses of water from more than 8,300 wells across the United States. In about one-third of the wells--concentrated in eastern and southeastern states--they identified...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A673828424