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Chicago residents use kits to test for lead contamination

April 13, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) — Hundreds of Chicago residents have used free testing kits from the city to determine if their drinking water is contaminated by lead.

The Chicago Department of Water Management began giving residents lead-testing kits on request following concerns regarding the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and a 2013 Environmental Protection Agency study of Chicago homes. The kits contain one sample bottle for water drawn after taps weren’t used for at least six hours, a bottle used to collect water after taps were running for three minutes and a final bottle to sample water after five minutes.

The results found that lead was detected in nearly 70 percent of the almost 2,800 homes tested over the past two years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits lead concentrations in bottled water to 5 parts per billion. Tap water in 30 percent of homes had lead concentrations above the limit.

Lake Michigan water is typically free of lead when it leaves the city’s treatment plants. Water becomes contaminated after passing through service lines and internal plumbing made out of lead.

Chicago required using lead service lines to connect street mains and homes until Congress prohibited the practice in 1986. Individual property owners are responsible for maintaining service lines, according to the city’s plumbing code.

Residents should flush household plumbing for up to five minutes when water hasn’t been used for several hours, city and EPA officials said.

Tests taken since January 2016 found that about 20 percent of Chicago homes had high levels of lead even after water was running for three minutes.

It is unsafe to consume lead at any level, according to the EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ingesting lead can cause brain damage in children and can contribute to heart disease, kidney failure and other health problems in adults.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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