Decades after officials banned lead in gasoline for new cars and stopped the sale of lead paint there are still an estimated 500,000 U.S. children with levels of lead in their blood that are considered high, and experts say lead in drinking water is an important source.
Toxic lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but the threat of poisoning persists. In suburban Cook County, officials say as many as half a million homes have lead paint hazards that present enormous health threats for young children.
The survey released Tuesday was the first time the agency asked about lead pipes and gave the best count yet of how many are underground. Illinois ranked second in with 1.04 million lead pipes.
Recently, a young child was poisoned in his Belmont-Cragin apartment and now faces a host of health problems. It’s spurred a debate on whether the city can do more to fix the problem before another child is affected.
Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, led Chicago’s effort to fight the deadly virus. On this third anniversary of the pandemic, Arwady reflects on lessons learned and whether she would have done anything differently.
Paint containing lead has been outlawed in Chicago since 1978, but a WTTW News investigation has found the vast majority of Chicago’s housing stock still contains potentially toxic levels of the substance.
Starting Jan. 1, city crews will have to replace all of the lead service lines connected to a water main that is being repaired — and foot the bill, which is expected to cost between $15,000 to $26,000 per line.
One in 20 tap water samples taken from thousands of Chicagoans found lead levels at or above federal limits, according to a recent analysis by the Guardian. It also found that nine of the top 10 ZIP codes with the largest percentages of high test results were in neighborhoods with majority Black and Latino residents.
Despite promises, a federally-funded program has removed just 154 lead service lines from Chicago homes as of Monday, according to data provided to WTTW News by the Department of Water Management.
As billions of dollars in new federal funding becomes available to address the problem of lead pipes contaminating drinking water, some places are in a better position than others to quickly apply for funds and start digging.
The unanimous vote of the City Council’s Budget and Government Operations Committee sends the proposal backed by Lightfoot to the full City Council for consideration at its meeting on May 25.
Lead service lines connect approximately 400,000 Chicago homes with water mains buried under city streets, and can leach a brain-damaging chemical into drinking water.
In an interview with “Chicago Tonight” Tuesday, Department of Water Commissioner Andrea Cheng said officials are confident both regular and ultrasonic water meters can be safely installed in Chicago homes without threatening the health of residents.
Department of Water Management Commissioner Andrea Cheng said federal funding will “jump-start” Chicago’s efforts to remove the lead service. Cheng acknowledged logistical challenges have meant the program has failed to achieve what Lightfoot promised in September 2020, when she vowed that the city would remove 650 pipes by the end of 2021.
In recent years, a patchwork of government and nonprofit programs have ramped up, offering help with lead testing and mitigation. But the need still far outstrips the available assistance, especially for high-priority places like child care facilities.
The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $15 billion to fund lead service replacement efforts, and $3 billion will flow to states and cities in 2022, officials announced.