Gulp. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have high levels of lead in their drinking water. A recent study shows serious pollution in several cities. Some are worse than in the infamous Flint, Michigan, case. Now some Canadian cities are taking action.
God created water to be essential for life. When water sources are polluted, humans suffer. Studies show that lead in water can damage brains and kidneys. Even low levels can affect IQ and the ability to pay attention. Children younger than seven and pregnant women are most at risk from lead exposure.
During a yearlong investigation, journalists tested lead in 11 cities across Canada. One-third of those exceeded the country’s national safety guidelines. Some showed levels three times higher than recommended.
In a country that boasts of clean lakes, sparkling springs, and rushing rivers, there are no national mandates to test drinking water for lead. And even if agencies do take samples, residents usually don’t find out about contamination.
“I’m surprised,” says Bruce Lanphear, a leading Canadian water safety researcher. “These are quite high given the kind of attention that has been given to Flint, Michigan, as having such extreme problems.” (See “Contaminated Water in Detroit Schools.”)
Canada is one of the only advanced countries in the world without a nationwide drinking water standard. Even countries that struggle to provide safe drinking water, like India and Mexico, have guidelines about lead levels. Some Canadian officials say they’re working to replace aging infrastructure (facilities and services like roads, utilities, etc.).
Results showing possibly dangerous lead levels trouble many Canadians. “It’s a little bit disturbing to see that there’s that much,” says Andrew Keddie of levels at his Edmonton house. He replaced his pipes years ago. He assumed his water was clean. But alas—he couldn’t replace public service lines delivering water to his house. After learning of his levels, Keddie says, “We won’t be drinking and using this water.”
(Corroded water pipes are being replaced in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Mackenzie Lad/Institute for Investigative Journalism/Concordia University via AP)