Why a century-old problem seems so hard to fix
Over a century has passed since the dangers of consuming lead became widely known. Ingesting even small quantities damages young brains and may raise the risk of heart problems. Yet residents of Chicago—and many other cities—still mostly swig from taps fed by lead pipes. About 400,000 lead service lines connect to the mains in the Windy City, linking about four in five of all houses there. One study of nearly 3,000 homes, two years ago, found two-thirds had elevated levels of lead in their water.
In Chicago some residents are told to flush their taps before drinking, to fit filters, or avoid boiled water (doing so can concentrate higher levels of lead). Older houses in poorer districts may be worst affected. Since this problem has been identified for so long, why does it persist?