According to new research, American children whose homes rely on private wells for drinking water are 25% more likely to have high lead levels in their blood than those with access to regulated community water services.
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to specifically analyze lead exposure in children who rely on private wells.
Lead, a heavy metal that has no smell and is invisible to the naked eye, is a suspected carcinogen and highly toxic to the brain and nervous system, as well as most other organs.
Researchers, who examined the water sources and health records from almost 60,000 children in North Carolina, found that those relying on private wells had blood lead concentrations that were 20% higher, on average, than children with community water service.
There is no safe lead level, according to the CDC, and childhood exposure has been linked to reduced IQ, ADHD, school failure, and criminality.
The increased exposure is probably due to corrosion of indoor plumbing and well components.
Private wells are excluded from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which since 1991 has required all community water utilities to monitor lead levels as part of the Lead and Copper Rule provision.
This means households with private wells must monitor their own water quality, and, when necessary, replace parts and install and manage their own water treatment systems.