Brain Damage from Drinking Water

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Many of us routinely consume lead with accumulative neurological effect

Portrait of cute adorable newborn baby child Some 18 million Americans live in communities in violation of the law for lead and copper contamination, says Erik Olson, health program director at Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC report uses federal government estimates that 5% of all people living in the US are being exposed to unsafe levels of a heavy metal.


The following map details populations served by community water systems with reported health-based violations of the lead and copper rule.

Brain Damage from Drinking Water_2

There is no safe level of chronic lead exposure, according to research; effects can become cumulative even if with low chronic exposures; however for purposes of a compromise between costs and public health, EPA has determined a “safe level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water. Levels lower than this will have negative reproductive and neurological effects.

EPA found more than 85% of the blood-lead in bottle-fed infants is from drinking baby formula made with lead-contaminated water.

Harvard University researchers analyzing data at a lead poisoning clinic in Boston discovered the primary source of lead in the bloodstreams of about 15% of the lead-poisoned infants treated at the clinic was from lead-tainted drinking water used to make babies’ formula. These babies will never recover from their neurologically damaged brains.

EPA says 560,000-plus children exceed the level of concern for blood-lead levels defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And the Department of Health and Human Services says lead poisoning is the number one environmental threat to children.


1. Check your water with a home lead test kit.

2. A rule of thumb for those who do not know the lead content of their water is to run the water 30 to 60 seconds (until temperature changes indicating that water is coming from outside) from each faucet that has not been used for several hours (Catch this water for plants or dish washing).

3. Never use water from the hot tap for making infant formula or cooking purposes, since the chances for lead contamination increase with the use of hot tap water. Distilled water from the tap however should be safer if not completely safe.

4. Distillation is considered to be highly efficient for the removal of lead from drinking water, besides eliminating chlorination by-products and arsenic (both linked with cancer). Waterwise distillers work overnight and are designed fit in with stylish kitchens.

56 Fed. Reg. 26,470, June 7, 1991. Shannon, M. and J. Graef, “Lead Intoxication in Infancy,” Pediatrics, vol. 89, no. 1, January 1992, pp. 87-90. M. Shannon and J. Graef, “Hazard of Lead in Infant Formula,” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 326, no. 2, January 9, 1992, p. 137. EPA, Fact Sheet: National Primary Drinking Water, “National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper,” May 1991. Plunkett, L. et al., “Differences Between Adults and Children Affecting Exposure Assessment,” Similarities and Differences Between Children and Adults: Implications for Risk Assessment, International Life Sciences Institute, 1992.
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