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Milwaukee Wisconsin has a lead problem.

Since 1872, the City of Milwaukee installed lead service lines to distribute water to thousands of residences. This has resulted in a significant number of properties still being serviced by lead pipes and contributing to the lead contamination in the water supply. Compounding the issue is the city's older-housing stock that was built before 1978 often contain lead-based paint that exposes all of us to potential lead hazards.

A hidden threat.

Lead is a toxic metal that can be found in various sources, including paint, water, soil, and certain consumer products. Despite its pervasive presence, lead poisoning often goes unnoticed, causing severe health problems over time.

It impacts health.

Lead exposure leads to cognitive issues, developmental delays, and learning disabilities, especially in children. It also affects cardiovascular health, elevating blood pressure and heart disease risk, while potentially harming kidney function.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system

  • Slowed growth and development

  • Learning and behavior problems

  • Hearing and speech problems

This can cause:

  • Lower IQ

  • Decreased ability to pay attention

  • Underperformance in school

There is also evidence that childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm. This underscores the urgent need to minimize lead exposure.

In the water, paint, soil, and more.

Old plumbing systems and lead pipes can contaminate drinking water, posing a lead exposure risk. Regular testing, water filter usage, and replacing lead pipes are vital steps in preventing lead ingestion through water consumption. Similarly, lead-based paint in older buildings and lead-contaminated soil are major sources of exposure, particularly for children. Adhering to proper renovation practices, conducting soil tests, and upholding a clean environment are imperative to mitigate these risks.

Lead Poisoning is 100% Preventable.

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect learning, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. While the effects of lead exposure may be permanent, if caught early there are things parents can do [PDF – 234 KB] to prevent further exposure and reduce damage to their child’s health.

The most important step that parents and caregivershealthcare providers, and public health professionals can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

CDC supports primary and secondary lead exposure prevention.

  • Primary prevention is the removal of lead hazards from the environment before a child is lead exposed. It is the most effective way to ensure that children do not experience harmful long-term effects of lead exposure.

  • Secondary prevention includes blood lead testing and follow-up care and referral. It remains an essential safety net for children who may already be exposed to lead.

A blood test is the best way to determine if a child has been exposed to lead. The amount of lead in blood is referred to as a blood lead level, which is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL). Most children with lead in their blood have no obvious symptoms. Talk to your child’s health care provider about getting a blood lead test.

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

According to an analysis from the Health Impact Project, [PDF – 7.5 MB] eliminating lead hazards from the places where children live, learn, and play could generate approximately $84 billion in long-term benefits per birth cohort. Additionally, permanently removing lead hazards from the environment would benefit future birth cohorts, and savings would continue to grow over time. CDC is committed to helping address this threat and improving health outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens—our children.

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