While lead in the tap water in Flint, Mich., caused national outrage, many older cities, including St. Louis, have battled a more severe threat from lead for decades.
At least 3,300 kids in St. Louis have toxic levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to decreased intelligence, learning disabilities, stunted growth and other health problems. The problem isn’t in the tap water; it’s in old houses with lead-contaminated paint.
“I hate lead because there’s nothing good about it,” said Dr. Andrew White, professor of pediatrics at Washington University. “Its effects are essentially irreversible and devastating.”
In Flint, pediatricians raised red flags when the percentage of children testing high for lead went from 2 percent to 4 percent after the city switched the source of its tap water, causing lead in pipes to leach into the water.