(HealthDay News) — In an effort that will cost up to $30 billion over the next decade and will affect about 9 million pipes that send water to homes across the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it plans to require the removal of all lead pipes from the country’s water systems.

“Lead in drinking water is a generational public health issue, and EPA’s proposal will accelerate progress towards President Biden’s goal of replacing every lead pipe across America once and for all,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in an agency news release. “With collaboration and the focused actions proposed today, EPA is delivering on our charge to protect all Americans, especially communities of color, that are disproportionately harmed by lead in drinking water systems.”

Utility companies will be expected to cover most of the cost of pipe replacements, but there is $15 billion available in the 2021 infrastructure law to help them pay for it, the agency noted.

The proposal “is grounded in the best available science and successful practices utilized by drinking water systems to protect children and adults from lead in drinking water,” added EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Cities like Newark, New Jersey; Benton Harbor, Michigan; and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have all successfully gotten the lead out of their water systems. Our proposed rule applies the lessons learned to scale these successes to every corner of the country.”

“A game changer for kids and communities, EPA’s proposed new lead and copper rule would help ensure that we will never again see the preventable tragedy of a city, or a child, poisoned by their pipes,” said Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan, who is also associate dean for public health at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

The need to get the lead out of America’s water pipes is indeed pressing: In children, the neurotoxin can slow learning and damage the brain. In adults, it is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function and cancer, the EPA noted.

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