The pervasive threat of lead (Pb) in drinking water: Unmasking and pursuing scientific factors that govern lead release

Edited by Michael A. Celia, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and accepted by Editorial Board Member Pablo G. Debenedetti July 30, 2020 (received for review November 8, 2019)
September 8, 2020
117 (38) 23211-23218

Abstract

The Flint water crisis raised questions about the factors resulting in unacceptable soluble lead concentrations in the city’s drinking water. Although water treatment strategies, failure to follow regulations, and unethical behavior were all factors, knowledge deficits at the intersection of several scientific fields also contributed to the crisis. Pursuit of opportunities to address unresolved scientific questions can help avert future lead poisoning disasters. Such advances will enable scientifically based, data-driven risk assessments that inform decisions involving drinking water systems. In this way, managers and decision makers can anticipate, monitor, and prevent future lead in water crises.

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Data Availability

Data used in the construction of the thermodynamic plots and spreadsheet data have been deposited in the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/yqv5h/). Thermodynamic data were retrieved from Lange’s Handbook of Chemistry (37) and select referenced literature sources.

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge Prof. Marc Edwards for providing insights, proofreading early drafts, and suggesting selected references. R.J.S. also acknowledges his current affiliation with the US Naval Academy, which was uninvolved in the publication of this article. Consequently, the views expressed in this perspective do not represent the views of the US Naval Academy or the US Government. The perspective shared in this article is not financed by any funding institution. R.J.S. and J.R.S. were supported logistically by the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering at the University of Virginia.

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 117 | No. 38
September 22, 2020
PubMed: 32900964

Classifications

Data Availability

Data used in the construction of the thermodynamic plots and spreadsheet data have been deposited in the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/yqv5h/). Thermodynamic data were retrieved from Lange’s Handbook of Chemistry (37) and select referenced literature sources.

Submission history

Published online: September 8, 2020
Published in issue: September 22, 2020

Keywords

  1. lead
  2. drinking water
  3. corrosion
  4. thermodynamics
  5. public health

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge Prof. Marc Edwards for providing insights, proofreading early drafts, and suggesting selected references. R.J.S. also acknowledges his current affiliation with the US Naval Academy, which was uninvolved in the publication of this article. Consequently, the views expressed in this perspective do not represent the views of the US Naval Academy or the US Government. The perspective shared in this article is not financed by any funding institution. R.J.S. and J.R.S. were supported logistically by the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering at the University of Virginia.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission. M.A.C. is a guest editor invited by the Editorial Board.

Authors

Affiliations

Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering, Department of Material Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering, Department of Material Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: [email protected].
Author contributions: R.J.S. and J.R.S. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interest.

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    The pervasive threat of lead (Pb) in drinking water: Unmasking and pursuing scientific factors that govern lead release
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 117
    • No. 38
    • pp. 23195-24004

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