The American Medical Association called Tuesday for routine lead testing in schools and registered day care centers in the wake of water problems in Flint that led to widespread lead exposure in children.
The policy was adopted at the American Medical Association’s annual conference this week in Chicago, where the nation’s top physicians’ organization also urged the elimination of lead-based pipes in the nation’s water systems.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure that another Flint-like water crisis never happens again,” incoming AMA President Dr. Andrew W. Gurman said in a statement. “To truly ensure that our nation’s water supply is safe and free of lead, we are calling for measures to actively monitor the drinking water within our communities, require timely notification to the public when lead levels are high and completely move away from a lead-based plumbing infrastructure.”
About 3.4 percent of the nearly 5,000 children age 6 or younger who were tested statewide had lead levels in their blood above the federal action standard of 15 parts per billion, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced this month. Children are sickened by lead across Michigan — from the northwest reaches of the Upper Peninsula near Wisconsin to Lenewee County, which borders Ohio.
In 2015, children in 50 of Michigan’s 83 counties had blood lead levels requiring medical treatment.
The AMA called for new state and federal laws to require routine lead testing of public water systems and public posting of the results.
The policy also calls for an update to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule, which sets federal limits on the amount of lead allowed in water from consumers’ taps. A University of Michigan-Flint study determined Flint has 8,000 lead service lines and 4,376 known lead service pipes in its municipal water system.
“We know that there is no safe level of lead consumption, yet 20 percent of the lead that is ingested comes from the drinking water that flows through lead plumbing in communities across the nation,” Gurman said. “Evidence clearly shows that lead plumbing is a major source of lead in our drinking water.
The AMA noted that children exposed to lead require ongoing medical attention, and called for biologic testing of children with elevated blood lead levels, health screening and nutritional support for all people exposed to lead through their public water systems.
“Even though children and infants absorb more lead than the average adult, there are no real safeguards in place to ensure that the drinking water is safe at the facilities where most of their time is spent,” Gurman said. “We must do everything we can to change the law to make sure our young people are kept safe and healthy.”