Millvale event helps educate about lead exposure
As of Jan. 1, it is mandatory for children residing within Allegheny County to undergo blood screenings between 9 and 12 months old and again at 2 years of age to detect lead exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children exposed to the neurotoxin have increased risks of hearing and speech issues, brain and nervous system damage, developmental delays and behavioral problems.
People might access lead from water, paint, soil, dust and other sources.
Lead exposure prevention often focuses on children because the effects are often irreversible once they have manifested, said Hawa Mariko, Women for a Healthy Environment healthy homes coordinator.
“But, we do want to make it clear that everyone is at risk of the lead issue, even adults, young folks,” she said during a Jan. 2 water and lead workshop at the Millvale Community Library.
The Heinz Endowments and EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program is funding the workshops. Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority customers receive free water filters, with priority given to pregnant women and people with young children. More than 60 registered for the Millvale event.
Sheena Carroll, library outreach and development coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, said she invited the nonprofit's representatives to speak after reviewing residents' concerns about lead in their water on a community needs assessment.
“Seventy-five percent of the people had not tested their houses for lead, but 50 percent wanted help,” said Daly Trimble, a University of Pittsburgh student and former Browne Leadership Fellow who assisted with the needs assessment. Mariko said that PWSA tests the water from its facilities to ensure that it is lead-free but the water may pick up lead from service lines.
“If it was built with lead and has a lead chip and that chip falls off and it travels with the water and it comes up with the pipes, that's when it poses a problem.”
The PWSA acquired the borough's system in 2009. Will Pickering, the utility's communications manager, said in September that the PWSA was analyzing and attempting to bolster Millvale's records.
At the library workshop, attendees residing in the City of Pittsburgh or Millvale could sign up to have PWSA test their water for lead. Women for a Healthy Environment Executive Director Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis said this allows PWSA to determine where its lead service lines are located. If the test is positive, the resident also knows to use an NSF certified water filter, whether it's a faucet-mount or pitcher system.
Pickering said that PWSA uses copper or PEX — cross-linked polyethylene — material when replacing broken lead service lines or performing scheduled replacements.
In the fall, Millvale faced an almost week-long boil water advisory after officials noticed a tear in the cover at the Lanpher Reservoir and worried about contamination from birds that sit on the cover.
Mariko explained that by boiling tap water to rid it of germs and pathogens, one might increase the lead. She recommended filtering the water for lead first, then boiling it according to the advisory.
“I'm very concerned about clean water. I'm 10 years free of breast cancer and am especially concerned about hormone issues. I've done a lot of research about filtration,” attendee Suzen Segall, of O'Hara said.
An Allegheny Lead Safe Homes Program representative was on hand to answer questions during the event, as well.
The program provides free lead-paint testing, home repairs and education to those who qualify. For more information, visit: alleghenycounty.us/leadsafeprogram.
The Women for a Healthy Environment's next workshop is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 18 at CCAC-Homewood Brushton Center.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.