The Milwaukee Health Department has been charged with failing to inform families that their children had tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood years earlier. This delay may have prevented affected children from seeking treatment or taking preventive measures given their condition. The city of Milwaukee now acknowledges that there were substantial deficits in the state’s notification policies that date back to tests administered between 2015-2017. Furthermore, the Health Department failed to offer services to assist the families of lead poisoned children who tested positive for lead. Health providers are required to alert families when results show elevated levels of lead in the blood and then perform subsequent testing. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker resigned from his position as news came about that the city failed to notify residents or provide these services.

The elevated levels of lead came as no surprise to some city experts who advised city health officials that children in Milwaukee who drink the water from old lead pipes are subject to significant risks of lead poisoning. The expert’s warning, issued in a 2015 memo, contained a stern warning that replacing city water mains would markedly increase lead levels in the drinking water. The memo recommended completely revamping the lead service lines, the pipes that transport water to residences, in the city. Other suggestions in the memo included using filters and periodically testing the drinking water for lead. The city failed to heed the warnings and take the recommended actions set forth in the 2015 memo.

Lead had been used in water pipes until the 1920’s and in solders attaching copper pipes until the 1980’s. The lead in the pipe system can be absorbed into the drinking water that city residents use. Approximately 25,000 children annually are tested for lead exposure in Milwaukee and 3,000 demonstrate elevated levels of lead in the blood. Environmental experts described Milwaukee homeowners as drinking water through “permanently lead-painted straws” even with the implementation of remediating measures to address corrosion.

Approximately 6,500 parents are now being notified that their child’s test results indicate elevated lead levels. But the issue of how to address the presence of lead in the water is still unresolved. Milwaukee has identified 77,585 lead service lines, which accounts for approximately 46 percent of all service lines citywide. City officials have said that lead levels in Milwaukee are substantially lower than those in Flint. However, the highest water test on record in Milwaukee registered at 130-parts-per-billion, indicating that lead presence in the water supply is still exceedingly high and presents a significant danger to city residents.

Lead is a toxic metal that can cause a range of adverse health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water is zero due to its high toxicity. The population most vulnerable to lead exposure is infants and young children. Even low levels of exposure have been associated with learning disabilities, diminished IQ, malfunctioning blood cells, and impaired functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Lead in water cannot be detected through taste, sight or smell. It is important for anyone who suspects lead poisoning to have their water tested and take other precautionary measures, such as flushing pipes by running taps before drinking water.

The lead poisoning attorneys at Levy Konigsberg LLP handle cases of lead poisoning in children all around the country, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If your child has been identified as having elevated levels of lead, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation by calling (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry.

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