This week is National Lead Prevention Week (October 22–28), making it a good time to remind Minnesotans of the most common exposures to lead and celebrate Minnesota’s historic steps to protect children and all Minnesotans from the harmful effects of lead.
The Lead Problem
Lead is a serious toxin, especially in young children. When lead is breathed in or swallowed, it can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems. Even very low levels of lead in children’s blood can cause these health effects. As a result, experts now warn that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
Children can be exposed to lead through drinking water that is contaminated by old lead pipes or by breathing lead dust created by old paint that has chipped or cracked.
In Minnesota, 100,000 households have old lead pipes, and the EPA estimates that about half of all homes built before 1978 have lead paint.
Replacing Lead Pipes Throughout the State
Last spring, the Legislature and Governor Walz committed $240 million in new state funds to find and replace toxic lead drinking water pipes in every part of the state. An additional $215 million from the Federal Infrastructure, Investment, & Jobs Act (IIJA) will supplement the state's money over the next five years.
Already, Minnesota communities have submitted 55 project requests totaling $87.244 million to replace lead drinking water pipes. In addition, 435 community public water supplies have applied to Minnesota’s Department of Health for state assistance with identifying lead service lines in their areas.
These requests are coming from every part of the state. Project requests have been received from:
- Albert Lea
- International Falls
- Little Falls
- Maple Plain
- North Mankato
- Norwood Young America
- Rich Prairie
- Sauk Rapids
- St. Cloud
- St. Paul
- Two Harbors
We’re excited to see so many communities already requesting funding to eliminate this serious health threat. We’ll continue to track progress on lead service line replacement over the next decade and advocate for the additional funds we know we’ll need to fully eradicate lead pipes in Minnesota.
What You Can Do Now
- Test your child
Ask your pediatrician if your child has been tested for lead. A child with lead poisoning may not have visible signs or symptoms. Many children who have lead poisoning look and act healthy. The Minnesota Department of Health requires blood lead level (BLL) screening at 12 and 24 months and for children up to six years of age who did not have a BLL screen by 24 months.
- Test your home
Testing your water is important if young children or pregnant women drink your tap water. All testing should be done through an accredited laboratory. Contact a Minnesota Department of Health accredited laboratory to purchase a sample container and instructions on how to submit a sample. You can also contact your county or water utility to see if they have any programs to make testing your water easier.
If you are unsure about whether you may have lead pipes, it is always a good practice to run your water for 3 to 5 minutes in the morning before using it for drinking or cooking.
If your home or apartment was built before 1978, look into lead paint testing.