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It’s lead in our water, not lies about replacing gas stoves, that we should be concerned about

According to the Center for Disease Control, lead exposure in children causes damage to the brain, slowed growth, behavior problems and hearing issues.

Filling up a water bottle at the kitchen faucet

If you follow politics closely, you may remember that Republican elected officials wasted no time in using their new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to waste everyone’s time. Instead of focusing on actual issues, Republican elected officials across the country have been doing their best to persuade Americans that the government is coming for their gas stoves. This is not true, but it is instructive. While Republicans tilt at windmills, Minnesota’s DFL-controlled legislature is taking concrete and tangible steps to improve public health by eliminating lead contamination in our drinking water. Once again, Republicans rage over a non-issue while DFLers are delivering.

Lead is toxic, dangerous, and a serious problem for many Americans. Lead generally finds its way into our drinking water because of outdated pipes. For example, small particles get knocked into drinking water when your home shakes because of a passing snow plow, train, or garbage truck. Unfortunately, this contamination method worsens as pipes age, releasing more and more lead.

When lead contamination is an issue on a property, the homeowners often aren’t even aware. Lead contamination is hard to spot; you can’t see, smell or taste its presence in your water. As a result, it’s easy to overlook. When lead contamination is detected, some homeowners are forced to forgo replacing old pipes because of the cost. The price of replacement can reach four figures. When you’re trying to put food on the table or put a kid through college, pipe replacement probably isn’t your top budgetary concern.

However, the consequences of ignoring the problem are dire, especially for Minnesota’s children. According to the Center for Disease Control, lead exposure in children causes damage to the brain, slowed growth, behavior problems and hearing issues. Recently, our state was ranked second-best to raise a child. Not only should we aim to preserve that status, but we should also try to improve it. Reducing childhood lead exposure is vital in achieving this goal, even if it’s not the flashiest issue.

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Some studies have even linked lead exposure and the behavioral problems it causes to an increased likelihood of committing crimes. Reducing crime is a complex and multifaceted challenge. Providing law enforcement with the tools they need is certainly a big piece of the puzzle, and so is addressing the root causes of crime. Many of those root causes are complicated to tackle, but lead poisoning is not. Replacing lead pipes will improve both public health and public safety, which is all the more reason why Minnesota should tackle this now.

That is why Rep. Sydney Jordan’s (DFL-Minneapolis) bill aims to eliminate lead pipes in the next decade. Under her bill, Minnesota would establish a grant program to pay for some of the pipe replacement costs. DFLers are committed to addressing this potential problem swiftly before it harms more young people and robs them of a fair shot at success.

Ken Martin
Ken Martin
Areas at the most risk are often diverse, low-income or historical municipalities. Addressing contamination risk is a way of lending a hand to the most vulnerable people in our society. Everybody deserves clean drinking water.

You generally won’t find talking heads on cable news discussing lead contamination. While lead poisoning can cause severe harm to young people, from brain damage to developmental and behavioral problems, its effects are often not immediately clear. It is a serious problem, but it’s not a flashy one.

DFLers are in office to tackle serious problems, not chase headlines. While Republicans try to gin-up fake outrage over gas stoves, DFLers will continue working here to get things done for families across Minnesota. That should start with making sure lead does not work its way into our drinking water.

Ken Martin is chair of the Minnesota DFL party.