CHICAGO – In light of the devastating water crisis in Flint, Mich., communities are hyper-aware of the dangers of lead, and efforts to remove it from the nation's water supply are in full force. The American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted policy to protect the public from further exposure to lead in drinking water and its associated adverse physical and mental health consequences.
"We must do everything in our power to ensure that another Flint-like water crisis never happens again. To truly ensure that our nation's water supply is safe and free of lead, we are calling for measures to actively monitor the drinking water within our communities, require timely notification to the public when lead levels are high, and completely move away from a lead-based plumbing infrastructure," said incoming AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, M.D.
To improve public access to testing data on water lead levels so that consumers can take appropriate precautions to protect their health, the AMA adopted new policy advocating for state and federal laws, including updates to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule, requiring timely reporting on a publicly-accessible website of all public water system testing results. The policy also supports state and federal laws to completely remove lead service lines and plumbing materials that come in contact with drinking water.
"We know that there is no safe level of lead consumption, yet 20 percent of the lead that is ingested comes from the drinking water that flows through lead plumbing in communities across the nation," said Dr. Gurman. "Evidence clearly shows that lead plumbing is a major source of lead in our drinking water. The AMA believes now is the time for America to take swift action to replace all lead plumbing throughout the country. We pledge to advocate for the removal of lead plumbing as well as federal standards to ensure that our drinking water is actually lead-free."
As a result of today's policy action, the AMA will also advocate for laws that require all schools and registered daycare sites to receive routine municipal water quality assurance testing. Current laws do not apply to many school and daycare sites in the U.S., and water testing is voluntary. According to the EPA, 90,000 public schools and 500,000 child care facilities are not being regulated, and may or may not be conducting quality testing of their drinking water.
"Even though children and infants absorb more lead than the average adult, there are no real safeguards in place to ensure that the drinking water is safe at the facilities where most of their time is spent," said Dr. Gurman. "We must do everything we can to change the law to make sure our young people are kept safe and healthy."
Additionally, since those affected from lead exposure will continue to require dedicated attention, the AMA is advocating for biologic testing for children with elevated blood lead levels and health screenings and nutritional support for all people exposed to lead contaminated water.
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