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EPA Awards $1.9 Million to Virginia Tech to Research Lead in Drinking Water

04/25/2018
Contact Information: 
David Sternberg (sternberg.david@epa.gov)
215-814-5548

PHILADELPHIA (April 25, 2018) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $1,981,500 in funding to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Va., to research strategies to detect and control lead exposure in drinking water.

“Lead exposure is one of the greatest environmental threats we face as a country, and it’s especially dangerous for our children,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This research will move us one step closer to advancing our work to eradicate lead in drinking water.”

Virginia Tech will use this funding to create a consumer-based framework to detect and control lead in drinking water. Researchers will work collaboratively with the public, encouraging citizen scientists to participate in the research. By involving consumers directly in research, this community science project is designed to increase public awareness of lead in water and plumbing at a national scale. This research expands the capacity of the most vulnerable communities to actively participate in identifying risks and evaluating opportunities to mitigate those risks.

“Our team will establish one of the largest citizen science engineering projects in U.S. history to help individuals and communities deal with our shared responsibility for controlling exposure to lead in drinking water through a combination of low-cost sampling, outreach, direct collaboration, and modeling,” said Principal Investigator on the Project Dr. Marc Edwards. “We will tap a growing ‘crowd’ of consumers who want to learn how to better protect themselves from lead, and in the process, also create new knowledge to protect others. Whether from wells or municipalities, we all consume water, and we can collectively work to reduce health risks.”

Administrator Pruitt has made it a priority to reduce lead exposure and address associated health impacts, while also protecting America’s waters. The grant awarded to Virginia Tech is one of two grants totaling almost four million dollars to detect and control lead in America’s drinking water announced today. EPA also awarded $1.9 million to the Water Research Center in Denver, Colo., to create a risk-based model to identify opportunities to mitigate lead exposure from drinking water including at home and among children and pregnant women.

For more information about these grants: https://www.epa.gov/research-grants/water-research-grants

Background

In February 16, Administrator Pruitt hosted key members of the Trump Administration to collaborate on the development and implementation of a new Federal Strategy to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposures and Eliminate Associated Health Impacts. The President’s Task Force aims to make addressing childhood lead exposure a priority for their respective departments and agencies. Lead exposure, particularly at higher doses, continues to pose a significant health and safety threat to children, preventing them from reaching the fullest potential of their health, their intellect, and their future. No blood lead level is safe for children. EPA and our federal partners are committed to a collaborative approach to address this threat, and improve health outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens – our children.

Unlike most drinking water contaminants, lead is rarely found in the source water used for public water supplies. Instead, lead can enter tap water when plumbing materials containing lead corrode. Exposure to lead causes health problems ranging from stomach problems to brain damage and studies consistently demonstrate the harmful effects of lead exposure on children, including cognitive function and decreased academic performance. It is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

More information about lead: www.epa.gov/lead.