News Feature | December 30, 2013

Lead In D.C. Water Associated With Miscarriages

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A study has linked tap water in Washington, D.C. to miscarriages. 

"Late-term miscarriages and spontaneous abortions occurred at an unusually high rate among Washington women from 2000 through 2003 — during the same timeframe that lead levels were dangerously high in the city’s drinking water," the Washington Post reported, citing a new study.

The study is published by Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering professor Marc Edwards in the journal Environmental Science & Technology

This seems “to confirm the expectation, based on prior research, that about 20 to 30 extra fetal deaths occurred each year that the lead in water was high,” Edwards said in the Washington Post.

ScienceNews explained the general backdrop to the research: "Long-established science suggests that the elevated lead levels should have also increased stillbirths, which are fetal deaths in the second half of the normal 40-week gestation period."

But the study contradicts what researchers had previously found about the specific issue of lead in D.C. water. Earlier "studies largely rejected the notion that the water had harmed public health" the Washington Post said. 

D.C.'s water authority responded in the Washington Post piece. 

“We generally believe lead in water is a great risk to human health, and that’s why we have an extremely proactive program to respond to it,” said George Hawkins, director of the authority.  “We know it’s a serious issue ... and we work with our customers if we think there is a risk.”

In the city that houses more lawyers per capita than any state, the legal community appears to be watching the issue closely. 

The Huffington Post noted that one DC attorney wrote in a blog post that "if you or someone you love was adversely affected by lead-poisoned water, contact one our dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation."

Under current EPA rules, "if more than 10 percent of tap water samples exceed the action level [for lead], water systems must take additional steps. For lead, the action level is 0.015 mg/L."

Chicago struggles with lead issues as well. Visit Water Online to read more. 

Image credit: “UWashington DC_cherry blouson on the Tidal Basin," © 2011 robposse, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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