The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan has highlighted just how harmful lead contamination is. What you may not realize, however, is that lead exposure is a problem throughout the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over four million households with children in the U.S. are exposed to elevated levels of lead. At least half a million children have blood lead levels above five micrograms per deciliter, the threshold that prompts a public health response.
Lead used to be commonly used in gasoline, household paints and even coloring pigments in artificial turf through the end of the last century. And although today lead is no longer used in these products, there is still plenty of it out there. Lead does not break down in the home or the environment, and the result is that we still have to be concerned about lead poisoning today.
As a university-based researcher who focuses on children’s health, I have spent the past 30 years trying to understand how exposure to environmental toxins happens, and how to prevent it.
So where and how do people come into contact with lead, and what does it do to their bodies?