Tonight on the PBS NewsHour, Miles O’Brien takes a deep dive into the hazards and history of lead. Here are seven facts to get you started.
1. Before it was banned from gasoline in the 1990s, three common environmental sources of lead were pipes, paint and fuel.
2. Lead melts at 621 degrees Farenheit, a relatively low temperature for metals. The malleable metal used to be a popular choice for plumbers.
3. An estimated 10 million U.S. homes still connect to water mains with lead pipes.
4. The Romans knew lead was dangerous. The physician Dioscorides wrote, “Lead makes the mind give way.”
5. Lead is an impostor. It is so similar to calcium that human cells take on lead instead.
6. Higher lead levels in teeth are tied to lower IQs, behavior problems and language delays.
7. Have lead pipes? Over time, other metals in water actually interact with lead to create a protective barrier.
But what happens when this barrier goes away? For that and more on lead, tune in to Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour for Miles O’Brien’s in-depth report on the toxin. And check out digital science producer Nsikan Akpan’s story on an unexpected new tool for removing lead from water.