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Pa. has fourth-most lead water service lines in U.S., EPA says

Lead pipes continue plaguing Pennsylvania and hurting early-childhood development. Only three states have more lead water pipes in the ground than the Commonwealth.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Newly released data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows much of Pennsylvania's water is still being piped through lead.

The EPA reports Pennsylvania has almost 700,000 lead service lines still in use, the fourth-highest total of any state. 

The aging infrastructure is creating a health risk for the youngest Pennsylvanians.

Joyce Ravinskas has seen the problem first-hand through her work as program manager of the UPMC Lead Poisoning Prevention and Education Program of Central Pennsylvania.

While many children are exposed to lead through paint, she says others are exposed by what's coming through the tap.

"It comes back sometimes that the lead is coming from the water," Ravinskas said. "The child has been drinking the water or has been drinking some kind of formula with the water and that's why the lead levels are elevated."

Even a small amount of lead can have lasting effects on children, often delaying their development. 

It's proven to cause emotional-stability issues and even lower IQ by as much as seven points by adulthood.

"It will compete with the hemoglobin, which supplies the oxygen to the vital organs like the brain especially, but the liver, the heart, the kidneys, every organ," Ravinskas said.

New funding could help curb the issue.

Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Casey and Fetterman announced Pennsylvania is receiving almost $265 million from the EPA, promising to eliminate harmful chemicals in drinking water and replace existing lead pipes.

Ravinskas said it's a big step forward.

"We do have lead pipes. We have a lot of lead pipes," Ravinskas said. "I'm thrilled that we were selected to get this money to correct the problem in Pennsylvania. It's going to make a difference."

The UPMC Lead Poisoning Prevention and Education Program of Central Pennsylvania provides free walkthroughs for families who believe there may be lead in their homes. Interested families can reach the program at (717) 782-6443.

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