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Getting the Lead Out

CLEANUP New EPA guidelines will require utility companies to replace dangerous lead pipes. CARLOS OSORIO—AP

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to update rules that would reduce lead in drinking water. The agency says it will require utility companies to replace old lead water pipes.

The current rules are decades old. They have failed to prevent crises in Washington, D.C.; Flint, Michigan; and other communities where many people have had lead in their drinking water.

Experts say there are some 500,000 children in the United States with high levels of lead in their blood. This can affect intelligence, coordination, and the ability to focus and learn. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful.

The U.S. has an estimated 9.2 million lead pipes connecting water mains to homes and businesses. The federal government is investing billions of dollars to replace them. Experts say the measure could significantly reduce the amount of lead the children are exposed to.

“As we remove lead pipes, we’re going to see the numbers continue to fall,” Aaron Bernstein says. He’s the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s environmental health programs. “And that will be really wonderful.”

Stop and Think! Why are governmental rules necessary to protect public health? Which details in the article tell you why these rules are important?