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14:51 PM

Reuters Health: Partial lead-pipe replacements bring down levels of toxins

New research clarifies the benefits of having utilities replace municipal lead water-service lines, even when the pipe that enters a home continues to be made of the metal that can impair children’s brain development.

Previous studies based on laboratory setups showed that partial replacements of old service lines made of lead could increase corrosion and elevate lead levels at the tap, said Michele Prevost, professor of environmental engineering at Polytechnique Montreal in Quebec, Canada. The studies prompted some municipalities to leave aging lead pipes in place at otherwise opportune times to change them.

But the new study found that compared to homes with no water line replacement, homes with partial replacements had lower levels of lead in the water. Although lead continued to leach into the water, lead levels were significantly lower after partial replacements.

Dr. Jennifer A. Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ council on environmental health, said the finding of decreased lead concentrations after partial replacements made sense.

“But, anytime you disrupt the line, flakes of lead and other things will break off and contaminate the line. So, you need to flush the line before it is used,” she said by email. Lowry, chief of toxicology and environmental health at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, was not involved with the new study.

Lowry stressed the importance of alerting the public when water lines are being replaced so they know to wait until the water is safe before they drink it. She also stressed the importance of recognizing that multiple lead sources - paint, jewelry and foods, for example, in addition to drinking water - can contaminate children simultaneously.


Read the full story via Reuters Health.

Learn about the Division of Clinical Phamacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Innovation at Children's Mercy.