Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Spike in Water Lead Levels Coincided with Rise in Miscarriages

Health + Wellness
Spike in Water Lead Levels Coincided with Rise in Miscarriages

Pregnant women in Washington, D.C. experienced an unusually high number of late-term miscarriages during the same time period that lead levels were dangerously high in the city's drinking water and the public was unaware of the problem, a study has found.

Authors of the study, scheduled to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, say the findings do not prove the city’s lead crisis caused fetal deaths or miscarriages, but the results show a significant correlation.

Photo credit:
Shutterstock

The study, by Virginia Tech environmental engineer Marc Edwards, examines a time when the city had some of the highest lead spikes in water ever recorded in the U.S. The study tracked miscarriages after 20 weeks and overlaid data marking the period when the city's drinking water had unusually high levels of lead.

The spike occurred in 2000, when the city water and sewer authority made a chemical change in its water treatment that made the water more corrosive on lead pipes and plumbing. As a result, the water coming through the city's faucets carried hazardous levels of lead.

More than three years passed before the public was alerted to the problem through a 2004 story in the Washington Post. The miscarriage rate fell after federal health officials began urging children and pregnant women to instead drink filtered or bottled water and residents began taking other preventive steps. Today, the city’s drinking water has historically low lead levels. 

Lead is highly toxic to the developing brain and there is no safe level of exposure, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Adverse effects can include decreased IQ levels, increased ADHD and increased hearing impairment as blood lead levels increase. 

Lead exposure also has been linked to miscarriages. In the early 1900s, lead pills were used to induce abortions, the study said.

Government-led health studies in 2004 largely rejected the idea that the lead-tainted water had harmed public health.

The data seem “to confirm the expectation, based on prior research, that about 20 to 30 extra fetal deaths occurred each year that the lead in water was high,” Edwards told the Washington Post.

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less