Toxic legacy: Wash U researchers look for ways to keep lead out of drinking water

Washington University graduate student Anushka Mishrra tests water samples for chlorine on Nov. 21, 2018, as part of a lead-corrosion study. SHAHLA FARZAN | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Dan Giammar collects something most people want to get rid of: lead pipes.

“This is just a great piece of lead pipe,” said Giammar, turning the smooth cylinder in his hands.

The Washington University professor of environmental engineering is testing ways to keep lead pipes from dissolving and leaching into drinking water. Using old pipes from across the country, Giammar’s lab is working to understand whether adding a non-toxic compound to drinking water could prevent lead release.

Water pipes were often made of lead until the 1940s, partly because it’s a soft material that’s easy to bend.

Lead pipes also last an average of 35 years — more than twice as long as iron.

But they also make us sick.

We now know lead pipes dissolve over time and contaminate drinking water, causing a multitude of health problems from reduced kidney function to premature birth.

Despite early warnings from medical professionals in the 1920s, lead pipes were installed in cities across the country until World War II.

A 1923 advertisement from the National Lead Company. For its part, […]

More about lead in the public water supply and private residences:

Study: Flint’s lead-poisoned water had ‘horrifyingly large’ effect on fetal deaths

New York governor signs law mandating lead testing in schools

What new EPA lead regulations mean for local drinking water protection

In Echo of Flint, Lead Water Crisis Now Hits Newark, New Jersey

Doctors say Minnesota needs to do more to protect kids from lead exposure in school water

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Toxic legacy: Wash U researchers look for ways to keep lead out of drinking water
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Toxic legacy: Wash U researchers look for ways to keep lead out of drinking water
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Environmental engineer Dan Giammar is testing ways to keep lead pipes from leaching into drinking water, using old pipes from across the country.
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St. Louis Public Radio
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