"Worse than Flint:" Milwaukee works to address lead lateral problem

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee says the best way to make sure there is no lead in your water is to use a filter.

The Public Safety Committee discussed different ways to prevent lead poisoning from water pipes to thousands of homes.

Right now, the city doesn't have the money to replace 70,000 pipelines. So this morning, they said if you have lead laterals to make sure you're using a filter.

But, State Senator Lena Taylor says the issue needs way more attention.

"We have numbers of lead poisoning of our young people worse than Flint. I thought that couldn't be right, but from research, I found that it is right. Our numbers are double those in Flint."

The Milwaukee Health Department backs up those numbers but says they shouldn't be taken out of context.

According to Commissioner Dr. Bevan Baker, since 1997 there has been a 90% decline in the number of kids that have been poisoned with 10 micrograms per decimeter of lead in their blood.

In Flint, there was a sudden spike in elevated blood lead levels in children. Meaning something had suddenly changed to cause this -- it turned out to be the city's new water source.

Most lead poisoning in the city comes from chipping or peeling lead paint. And to give you an idea of how toxic it is -- it takes only the amount of lead paint dust in a sugar packet to elevate a child’s blood lead level.

The city has replaced 600 laterals mostly to schools and daycares around the city. 

For more information about the threat posed by lead paint as well as water safety, click here.

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