Lead in our water
There is no safe level of lead in your blood. In Wisconsin, more than 176,000 publicly-owned lead service lines and more than 148,000 private lead lines are in operation today. Lead exposure is a problem in all 72 counties.
Children are most at-risk of lead poisoning if they live in neighborhoods with older homes, lower housing values, or a higher proportion of rental properties. Children of color have much higher rates of lead poisoning, especially Black children who are poisoned more than three times the rate of white children.
Thanks to our partners at the Coalition on Lead Emergency (COLE) and other groups, there are efforts to educate residents and build awareness of the dangers of lead exposure.
Lead-Safe Wisconsin is an important resource for all Wisconsinites. Homeowners and rental property owners can receive assistance from state and local programs, like Lead-Safe Homes to remove lead-based paint hazards, or Lead Service Line Replacement, to minimize lead in drinking water.
The threat of lead
Children with elevated blood lead levels can suffer profound and permanent health problems including:
- Brain damage
- Reduced IQs
- Behavioral problems
- Increased violence
- Increased suspensions from school
- Decreased academic performance
Lead is also harmful to adults. Exposure is linked to cardiovascular effects, hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems.
The Department of Health Services released a Childhood Lead Poisoning Data Explorer, which shows the percent of children under 6 years old who are lead poisoned. This is a helpful tool for understanding which Wisconsin communities have threats of lead.
Funding for lead remediation and other solutions
While the lead emergency is being addressed more needs to be done. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), funding from the federal government is available for vital programs addressing the issue, but we need to continue to advocate for those dollars to go to the right place. Additionally, Gov. Evers continues to be a champion on clean water by proposing significant funding for lead remediation in his past state budget proposals.
The actions we are fighting for are:
- Funding to ensure we can replace all lead service lines by 2033
- Funding to provide low-interest and forgivable loans to low- to moderate-income households for lead remediation
- Funding for lead poisoning prevention and response programs at the Department of Health Services, which would support local health departments and increase lead investigations
- Modifying current law that utilities can provide grant funding to support the lead service lines on private property
- Lowering the definition of lead poisoning to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter and require a lead investigation for every lead-poisoned child under 6
- Expanding eligibility for the Birth to 3 Program to support children with a blood lead level greater than 3.5 micrograms per deciliter