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The hazards of lead

What we’re doing to keep families safe
Post Date:07/05/2018 8:14 AM

Lead and what we’re doing to keep families safe

We recognize the health hazards of lead and consider it an important issue to our community's health and infrastructure.

The US Census estimates that 88% of the homes in Wauwatosa were built before 1978, the year lead was removed from paint, and approximately 50% were built before 1953, when lead laterals were no longer used. 

We are committed to reducing the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels. In fact, this is a strategic goal in our 2018-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan.

In 2017, we had 0.33% of total children in Wauwatosa under the age of 5 with confirmed elevated blood lead levels. This percentage is 50% less than in 2014.  It is also significantly less than the state average (5%).

Learn the hazards of lead

Lead hazards in Wauwatosa are similar to those in other communities in the area:

  • Lead in chipping or peeling paint
  • Lead in soil around homes
  • Possibility of lead leeching into water from lead lined pipes or laterals

Lead poisoning is 100% preventable

Here are some steps you can take to protect your child from lead poisoning:

  • Talk with your child’s doctor about a simple blood test.  We recommend a child be tested 3 times before the age of 3.
  • Renovate safely.  Common renovation activities (like sanding, cutting, and more) can create hazardous lead dust.  If you’re planning renovations, use contractors certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children and discard as appropriate.
  • Eat healthy.  You can reduce lead exposure by providing foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C, keeping your child’s stomach full by eating 4-6 small meals a day (lead is absorbed faster on an empty stomach) and cook and wash your food safely.
  • Consider using a water filter. If your home’s plumbing contains lead materials consider utilizing a filter approved for removal of lead for water consumed.

Lead in Water

We estimate that there are about 10,000 lead laterals in Wauwatosa because of the age of homes in our neighborhoods. Currently, when we perform a construction project and identify a lead lateral, we replace the city’s portion of the lateral with high density polyethylene.

During the course of construction, we provide lead filtering pitchers to anyone whose lateral is affected by construction.

We communicate with the homeowner that there is a lead lateral on their property. As a homeowner, you own this lateral, so you can decide if you want to patch, line, or replace the lead lateral, at your expense.

Our next steps

Lead can be found in several sources. In the coming months, you will see us roll out a lead hazard awareness campaign for our community. Our Health Department will work with pediatricians on the importance of lead testing for all children and proper follow-up care for those who have elevated lead levels.

The Common Council will be exploring additional initiatives to address lead in water.

Listen to WUWM’s reporting on what we’re doing to address the effects of lead in water in Wauwatosa.


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