EPA finds more than 9 million lead pipes supplying drinking water throughout the U.S.

Millions in the U.S. could currently be at risk of consuming toxic material through their drinking water.

The Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment, conducted in 2021 as part of requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act, looked at more than 3,600 public water systems across the country and its territories. Based on those results, EPA officials estimate that there are roughly 9.2 million lead service lines in the U.S.

Every state has at least a few thousand lead pipes, but two states stand out for their estimated numbers. Florida leads the nation with an estimated 1.16 million lead pipes, accounting for 12.62% of the country’s total makeup. Illinois ranks second, with a little over 1 million pipes.

Based on their findings, the EPA estimated that the nation will need $625 billion to revamp drinking water infrastructure, a 32% increase from the estimate determined in their last assessment four years prior. More than half of that money will need to go toward water distribution and transmission, the agency said.

Lead pipes are known to pose a health hazard to those who rely on them for water, and are “typically the most significant source of lead in the water,” according to the EPA.

Children, babies and fetuses are most at risk of being impacted by lead exposure, with even low levels being linked to nervous system damage, learning disabilities, hearing impairment and other complications. Adults who are exposed could see cardiovascular, kidney and reproductive problems.



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