* From my old buddy Michael Hawthorne at the Tribune…
Dangerous levels of lead are turning up in Chicago homes where pipes made of the toxic metal were disturbed by street work or plumbing repairs, according to a new federal study that suggests the city’s aggressive efforts to modernize its water system could inadvertently pose health risks.
The problem starts with lead service lines that Chicago installed across the city until the mid-1980s to connect water mains with homes. Researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that spikes of lead can leach into tap water when those pipes are altered by water main replacements, meter installations or street work.
High levels can be found in tap water for years afterward, the EPA study found, raising concerns that other cities with lead pipes could face similar problems.
Most homeowners likely are unaware they could be drinking tainted water. Under federal rules, utilities rarely are required to warn residents that work is being done or tell them they can take steps to reduce their exposure to lead. A potent neurotoxin, lead can damage the brains of young children, lower IQ and trigger learning disabilities, aggression and criminal behavior later in life. [Emphasis added.]
* I bolded that phrase because Kevin Drum wrote a fascinating story earlier this year about how several studies have found a seemingly direct correlation (with an astonishingly accurate 20-year lag) between gasoline lead emissions and the gigantic crime explosion that began in the 1960s. A chart…
Make absolutely sure to go read the whole thing when you have time.
Lead abatement may or may not reduce crime. It may just be too early to tell. But it most certainly will have a positive impact on health.