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Areas of Portland, Oregon Found With High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water

The city of Portland, Oregon recently tested water samples from 134 homes that contain plumbing from when lead was a commonly used component and found that more than 13 percent of the water samples from these “high risk” homes contained lead levels in excess of the federal and state limit of 15 parts per billion. Although lead was commonly used in plumbing until 1987, homes in Portland with such plumbing are particularly at risk because the city does not treat the water to limit its corrosiveness and reduce its ability to leach lead from pipes. According to reports, this recent round of tests marks the third time in five years that more than 10 percent of drinking water samples taken in the city contained high levels lead.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is poisonous at low concentrations, and particularly dangerous for young children under the age of seven. When lead is ingested, it enters the circulatory system and is absorbed by bones and soft tissue, displacing calcium in the bones, and damaging almost every organ in the body. In children, whose bodies and brain are developing at a rapid pace and absorb lead more quickly than adults, low levels of lead exposure interrupt that development at a critical stage, causing permanent cognitive damage, lower IQ, and attention deficit symptoms. Furthermore, the lead that is absorbed in a growing child’s bones can leach back out into the blood stream later in life, causing further damage to the brain and other organs.

Adults who were exposed to lead as children often struggle to achieve economic stability. Often lead poisoned children fall behind their peers in academic achievement, and continue to stumble as they get older. This affects their ability to hold a job and lead an economically productive life.

These effects are felt community-wide. Communities with high risk of lead exposure have higher crime and poverty rates when compared to communities with low risks of childhood lead exposure. That is why it is so important for communities to take steps to prevent young children from being exposed to lead. Portland recently approved a pilot study to improve corrosion control of the water in its system. However, the new treatment program, if it goes into effect, will not begin until 2022.

Parents from high-risk communities should take preventative steps. Get your child tested for blood lead levels regularly, and if you rent your home and your child has a detected blood-lead level, inform your landlord immediately. Check for peeling and flaking paint, and use an EPA approved water filter for water used to cook or drink. Finally, if your landlord refuses to take steps to correct the danger, contact a lead poisoning attorney.

The lead poisoning attorneys at Levy Konigsberg LLP have decades of experience helping lead poisoned children get the compensation they need and deserve. With over $100 million in verdicts and settlements, our experienced lead poisoning attorneys can advocate for you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.


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