What is it about?

When kids drink water with lead in it, the lead can accumulate in their bodies and cause long-term damage to their developing brains. Lead in water usually comes from pipes, faucets, and other plumbing materials in the home. Most city water systems treat their water to make sure it is not too corrosive and that it provides a protective coating on the plumbing to prevent the lead from getting out. However, in the US, about 13% of households are not served by a city water system. Most of these households get their water from private wells. We found that kids getting their water from private wells have more lead in their blood than kids with city water service.

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Why is it important?

Long-term exposure to lead can damage children's developing brains. This can lead to attention deficits, poorer performance in school, and increased risks of juvenile delinquency. These effects can occur even when levels of lead are very low.


The toxic properties of lead have been well known for a long time. As a nation, we need to provide better support to households without city water service so they can make sure their kids are protected from lead in their drinking water. Lead can be easily removed with low-cost filters, but people need technical support to test their water for lead and to install and maintain a filter. Some households do not have the resources to afford this kind of support.

Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson
School of Public Health, Indiana University, Bloomington

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Children drinking private well water have higher blood lead than those with city water, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2002729117.
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