Surili Patel is deputy director of the Center for Public Health Policy at APHA.This guest post by Surili Patel, deputy director of APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy, discusses an exciting APHA 2018 panel on creating public health partnerships to advance lead service line replacement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to lead in the environment can contribute to cognitive impairment, behavioral problems and lowered IQ in children and cause other health effects in adults. Lead can be found in dust, air, soil and drinking water in and around our homes, schools and child care facilities. And while there is no safe level of lead exposure, lead poisoning is preventable.

In honor of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, we are talking about one way in which children and families are exposed to lead: drinking water. Lead can enter drinking water when pipes and plumbing fixtures that contain lead corrode. While Congress banned the use of lead pipes in 1986, lead service lines still connect the plumbing of over 6-10 million homes to water mains under the street.

By promoting outreach and advocating for federal policy change, public health organizations can help increase the rate of lead service line replacement and make homes safer and healthier places to live. APHA is part of a diverse group of 25 national organizations that form the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative to accelerate full lead service line replacement in communities across the nation.

In January 2018, we partnered with the Children’s Environmental Health Network, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Center for Healthy Housing to co-sponsor the panel discussion, “Drinking Water and Lead Service Lines: Partnering to Protect Public Health.” The event took place at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and highlighted the importance of cross-collaboration between organizations and communities.

Continuing this work, we are offering a follow-up panel, “4010.0: Drinking Water and Lead Service Lines: Partnering to Protect Public Health,” on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo. The session will address the health risk of lead service lines, the role of public health professionals in the replacement process and the importance of effective partnerships between public health agencies and water utilities to find solutions.

  • Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, will offer practical advice on how water systems and health departments can work together to understand risk and encourage practical action.
  • Leon Bethune, BS, MPH, with the Boston Public Health Commission, will identify tools for public health professionals to use at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Jennifer Clary, with Clean Water Action, will identify issues around lead contamination of water supplies in California.
  • Tahra Nichols, MA, and Diane Raynes, MS; MPA, with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, will discuss how important knowledge of and data on lead service lines is for federal oversight of drinking water.They also will relay current knowledge about where lead service lines are located across the nation and what the ongoing efforts are to collect this information.

Learn more by attending session “4010.0: Drinking Water and Lead Service Lines: Partnering to Protect Public Health” on Nov. 13, 8:30 a.m. -10 a.m. at APHA 2018.

APHA’s Annual Meeting is the largest annual gathering of public health professionals. Thousands of people attend, and thousands of new scientific papers are presented each year on every public health topic. APHA 2018’s theme, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now” puts health equity at the center of our field’s attention.