The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States. And we know the cause: City and state officials are violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in several ways, such as failing to treat its water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ drinking water and neglecting to notify people about the elevated levels and the health risks.
Experts agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are most at risk: Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.
The high lead levels are especially alarming because there has been long-standing concern about children’s exposure to toxic lead levels in Newark. For years, the city has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned children in New Jersey. This likely stems from a variety of exposures to lead, including from contaminated tap water and other sources. Indeed, 2016 tests revealed 30 public schools with elevated water lead levels.
NRDC, together with the Newark Education Workers Caucus, is fighting in court to ensure that the residents of Newark have access to safe, clean drinking water every time they turn on the tap.