No amount of lead is safe to consume, yet for decades lead was used for water service lines, the pipes that bring drinking water into our homes. Congress banned the installation of lead service lines in 1986, but most lines installed before then were never removed. Illinois has the most lead service lines in the nation. Black and Latinx Illinois residents are disproportionately affected by exposure to lead.
There are 686,000 known lead service lines in Illinois, and Chicago has 400,000. That means this state has one quarter of all the lead service lines across the country! Every county in Illinois has a community which is affected by lead service lines.
The Metropolitan Planning Council reported in a recently released study where they reviewed the 50 municipalities with the most lead service lines in Illinois that "65% of Black and Latinx population of Illinois lives in communities that have 95% of all the lead pipes."
Even low levels of exposure can lead to learning disabilities, stunted growth, lower IQ, impaired hearing, and behavioral issues in children, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as reproductive and kidney problems in adults. These serious health problems come with staggering costs that accrue to all of us. For example, in 2017, 1,470 Illinoisans died prematurely from heart disease that was attributed to lead exposure, costing nearly $28 million in hospitalization costs alone.
The Illinois Legislature passed the Lead Service Line Replacement & Notification Act (Public Act 102-0613) in 2021 and it went into effect on January 1, 2022. The law creates a feasible & equitable plan, funding, and timeline for IL water utilities to identify & replace all lead service lines.The federal infrastructure bill passed in late 2021 also allocated $1.7 billion to "improve drinking and wastewater infrastructure throughout Illinois" (Chicago Sun Times).
There's no time to wait to take action on this serious health risk!