Lead drinking water pipes go all the way back to the Roman times, and even though we’ve known that lead is harmful for the better part of the century, powerful in the U.S. lobbying kept them around — and in some places, mandated they be installed — until the 1980s.
So, millions of Americans in thousands of American towns have them.
To mitigate the poison, we rely on a calcium called orthophosphate that coats the pipes and protects the lead from contaminating the water that’s flowing through them.
Well, in theory, right? Because we’ve seen how that can fail. In the worst of circumstances, like Flint and Newark and Chicago and Washington D.C., kids are poisoned and communities financially ruined.