The results of the first longitudinal field study of lead removal by a low-cost, under-sink water filter have been published in the journal Water.
A new longitudinal field study by Dr. Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, and Riley Mulhern, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sought to find a solution to the problem of lead in well water in rural communities. The results were published in the journal Water.
"Recent research by my lab indicates that American children who get their water from a private well have a significantly higher risk from exposure to lead than children in homes with water service from a regulated water utility," says Dr. Gibson. "Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent cognitive damage in children."
This means that children who rely on well water may have impaired performance in school and a greater risk of behavioral problems. Those affected are often African American and low-income families who live in rural areas excluded from municipal water supplies. Private wells are not regulated by the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA), so contaminants such as lead often go unnoticed.
"This is the first long-term field study of a low-cost, under-sink water filter for removing lead from private well water. Previous studies have relied on bench-scale testing or have only collected observations at one time point," says Dr. Gibson. "As long as they didn't clog, the filters in this study were highly effective for lead removal. These results provide a simple intervention to alleviate the risks from children's exposure to lead."
The faucet fixture is a significant source of lead leaching, but the under-sink activated carbon water filter, which costs around $100, was found to remove 98% of all influent lead for more than six months.
"In the field of environmental health research, it is often difficult to provide immediate solutions to the problems that are uncovered. For private well users, learning that their drinking water is contaminated and that their health or the health of their children may be at risk is very unsettling," says Mulhern. "This study sought to help well users make decisions about how to protect themselves and their children. Hopefully, this work also contributes to the development of more robust policies and programs around delivering household water treatment services to private well users in a just and sustainable way."