Lead contamination

Our Revolution Illinois tackles widespread lead contamination in Chicago

The omnipresence of lead contamination in Chicago water is somewhat of an open secret, neither fully addressed by the municipal government nor well known by the general public but still nonetheless painly apparent in studies, reports, and tests.

Up until 1986, Chicago required that all water service lines be constructed of lead. Decades later, Chicago residents are now forced to face widespread lead contamination in their tap water. In fact, of those tested, 70% of Chicago homes throughout all community areas have been tested positive for lead contamination.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), any level of exposure to lead is harmful to the mind and body. The presence of lead is persistent, and can accumulate in the body over time. Infants, young children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead exposure. These negative effects include behavioral and learning disabilities, cardiac complications, shorter stature, impaired hearing, impaired blood cells, premature birth, fetal complications, and miscarriages. Additionally, the Brookings Institute found a strong correlation between exposure to lead and crime.

The city, however, maintains that it is the responsibility of individual property owners to replace their water service lines, a project which could cost between $3,000 to $10,000.

Due to the high cost and general disruption of water service line replacements, the problem of lead contamination is bound to disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods. Through inaction, the city is encouraging the already contrasting levels of opportunity between neighborhoods to become more pronounced and severe.

Solving the problem of lead contamination will not be easy or inexpensive, but swift action is necessary to protect our children and all Chicago residents. The grave problem of lead contamination cuts across the majority of the most pressing issues we are facing today, such as poverty, race, income inequality, healthcare, education, environmental concerns, labor, and immigration.

Our Revolution Illinois-Chicago is coming together with a coalition of organizations to find meaningful solutions to lead contamination. If your organization is interested in contributing towards this effort, please email julie@ourrevolutionil.com.

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