The “Lead in the Water” Story You Didn’t Hear About

wash-1254109_640The tragic story of Flint, Michigan. You’ve heard it. Cost-cutting by local officials put into motion a series of events that elevated lead levels in the city’s drinking water. As many as 12,000 children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their homes’ tap water.

Lead stays in your system and can lead to cognitive and behavioral disorders later in life. That means many of these children are facing an uncertain future.

While the story of Flint, Michigan deserved the news coverage it got, another story of children being exposed to high levels of lead in the water has been unfolding on the west coast in Portland, Oregon. And it’s probably one you haven’t heard about.

In the school system there, 99% of the school buildings have tested positive for high levels of lead in the water.

At least 15 children have tested with lead levels in their system above the action level set by the CDC. That’s when they start calling in public health departments to work on fixing whatever is causing the lead poisoning.

Just a week ago, health officials recommended students not be allowed to eat any of the produce grown in school gardens over the summer for fear the vegetables would contain high levels of lead. (You can read more about the Portland lead crisis here.)

I bring this story to your attention as an important reminder. Just because people in authority tell you your water is safe, doesn’t mean it is. That was true in Flint, Michigan. It’s true in Portland, Oregon. And it could be true in your own home.

Periodically testing your own water for lead and other potential hazards isn’t just smart. It could save you a ton of heartache down the line. Even if you have a newly built home, that doesn’t guarantee against lead in your water.

Most home improvement stores sell home testing kits that will help you identify if you have lead in your water. After carefully following the instructions on your home testing kit, you’ll send it off to a lab for testing. In just a little time, you’ll know if your home’s drinking water is safe.

Learn about more ways to check for lead—and more ways to limit your lead exposure—here.