A New York-based environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) reported that in 2015, nearly 77 million people in the United States lived in places where the water systems violated safety regulations in some form, including the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. According to a new study, if you live in the US, there is a nearly 1 in 4 chance that you either have tap water that is unsafe for drinking or that has not been monitored properly for contaminants in accordance with federal law. The report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that there were approximately 80,000 violations of regulations for drinking water safety that were reported in 2015. Of those, over 12,000 were “health based” violations, or cases involving actual problems with contamination.
When most of us think of handling hazardous materials, we think of strange looking vehicles with bio-hazard symbols and people in hazmat suits dealing with some sort of green mixture of unidentified chemicals. But in places like New York City, there are all types of hazardous materials that may not be readily recognizable by the average person. Some of these items are just oils and fuel materials that have a great deal of toxicity, while others are products used routinely in manufacturing that produce dangerous “off-gases.” A new report in the digital publication CityLimits.org showed that over 7000 city inspections of commercial and industrial locations around the urban area resulted in almost 500 violations related to hazardous waste. One of the points made in the article was the idea that some facilities have more of a hazardous material or contain many more hazardous items than others. From a cursory look at a report by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, we see clues about the scope of some of the more extreme scenarios. For example, over 1000 facilities were included as “facilities reporting 10,000 pounds or more of a hazardous substance.” Using available public maps, citizens can learn more about what is in their neighborhood and how companies are handling different kinds of hazardous materials.
Lead paint exposure is an important issue for both renters and those who buy their own homes. These issues are especially important in urban areas where buildings may have high occupancy rates and/or may have been built decades or even centuries ago, and where lax construction or renovation standards may lead to certain kinds of safety hazards related to lead exposure.
Symptoms and Consequences
The consequences of lead exposure can be devastating, especially for children. These range from immediate consequences like seizures or coma, to slower-developing issues such as the disruption of developmental processes. Because of the extreme health hazards related to lead exposure, authorities have put standards in place including real estate disclosure processes after the 1970s when much of the research on lead exposure was originally done.