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Report sparks fears over lead in US drinking water

 

By Fiona Harvey in London

 

Financial Times

 

Updated: 5:39 p.m. ET Jan. 27, 2006

 

The US Accountability Office has called for greater efforts to control the amount of lead in drinking water in the US, stoking health fears.

 

In a report critical of the federal government's actions to deal with the problem, the office found fault with the regulations regarding the contamination of drinking water with lead and copper, which are the province of the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

There were "significant and longstanding gaps in the amount of information available" over lead content, the report found. These gaps impaired the EPA's ability to both ensure that levels of lead in water supplies were acceptable and to set a limit on the level of lead that makes drinking water unfit for consumption.

 

Few schools and childcare facilities had their water supplies tested for lead, or adopted other measures to protect children from lead contamination, the report found. Neither was there any single point at national or state level to analyse any results that were collected.

 

The report recommends updating plumbing standards, saying some products currently classified as "lead-free" were in fact capable of leaching high levels of lead into drinking water.

 

Senator James Jeffords, the ranking member of the Senate environment and public works committee, requested the report inthe wake of concerns over levels of lead in the drinking water in Washington DC in 2004.

 

He said: "Safe drinking water is not a privilege, it is a right. This GAO report confirms that there are large holes in federal safe drinking water regulations...It is time to get the lead out."

 

Exposure to high levels of lead can lead to low birth weight in children, the retardation of growth, mental problems, learning disabilities, and other effects. Children retain about 68 per cent of the lead that enters their bodies while adults retain about 1 per cent.

 

 

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