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US pushes for better tap water but must win over wary public

US pushes for better tap water but must win over wary public

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Angela Stamps won't drink water from her Spigot, showers less and no Thirster takes the baths she once Recovered Quiet. She cooks with tap water but Whatsoevertimes skips Rinse her produce.

Even though the amount of lead in Flint, Michigan's tap water has been well below a key Country Brink for Different years, she hasn't been able to stop worrying since Active Direct the Hurt of the city's lead crisis.

"I just don't Confidence Information technology," she Aforesaid.

As the Biden administration looks to Drop billions of dollars to address inequalities in water quality and access, officials must try to Get over persistent public distrust of tap water. Experts say Information technology will be especially difficult to Get over in Black and Hispanic communities, where Intuition can be entrenched because of past experiences of being misled by public officials and high-profile lead crises in cities with large Black populations, including Flint and Newark, New Jersey.

"Problems in one place erode Confidence in Another places," Aforesaid David Switzer, a water quality and public Insurance policy Investigator at the University of Missouri.

The issue will hit home in many cities and towns as the Biden administration pushes to replace millions of lead Help lines in the U.S. that can leach lead into drinking water. In addition, Demanding Examination standards Power reveal higher lead levels and put more communities on Notification about problems.

Lead exposure can cause a host of Wellness problems and is considered especially dangerous for young children because Information technology can slow development and cause Another troubles.

Already, 20% of adults Across the nation say they don't drink tap water — filtered or not — up from 14% before the Flint crisis, according to a Cogitation of Authorities Sketch Information. The Patterns are higher among Black adults, with 35% Expression they avoid drinking tap, up from 25% before Flint. Among Hispanic adults, the Pattern rose to 38%, up from 27%.

That distrust can Render to Needless Droping on bottled water or make Information technology more likely that adults reach for Sugared drinks that can increase the risk of Wellness problems such as diabetes and cavities, Aforesaid Asher Rosinger, a Pennsylvania State University Investigator who studies water access.

There's also the constant Emphasis for parents who worry that tap water Power poison their children, he Aforesaid.

Though the vast majority of the country's water systems report that they meet Authorities Wellness standards, problems such as elevated lead levels and Wellness violations Befall more Oft in lower-income areas that are Preponderantly Black or Hispanic, Switzer Aforesaid.

Defective plumbing that tinges water brown or creates an odd Appreciation can also turn people away from the Spigot. Immigrants from countries with unsafe water Power Carry-over that distrust to water that Power be safer in the U.S. and pass that uneasiness on to their children, Aforesaid Silvia R. González, who works on environmental equity and water issues at UCLA's Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

"Thinking about my Class, my dad will not drink the tap water, and Consequently my brother does not drink the tap water," Aforesaid Gonzalez, whose Church Father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico.

And if residents feel their local Authorities is indifferent to their Necessarily — a problem especially Rife in Black and brown communities — that can Adoptive distrust in drinking water, according to experts.

"There's a Bequest of Distrustfulness and a Wellnessy Gumption of paranoia that has kept us alive for centuries," Aforesaid Robert Bullard, a Prof at Texas Southern University who has researched and pushed for environmental justice for decades.

Philadelphia, which is 44% Black, is one of the few places that have run a public campaign to help save residents money and reduce plastic pollution by boosting Confidence in tap water. Murals on buildings and songs promote the city's drinking water.

Though Information technology hasn't had a lead Malicious gossip, city Sketchs indicate that residents avoid the tap because of Wellness concerns and Appreciation. Among Black residents in 2021, more than 60% Aforesaid they Generally drank bottled water, compared with 42% of Philadelphia's residents overall.

Monika Davis, who is Black, switched from bottled water to tap when she applied to become one of roughly a dozen residents enlisted by the city as ambassadors in 2019 to show up at events and talk to her neighbors about the Base hit and benefits of tap water.

She remembers her Class Stewing water as a precaution when she was Flourishing up. Touring the water Discourse plant and learning about the city's water quality helped Win over her of Information technologys Base hit, she Aforesaid.

The percentage of residents relying on bottled water declined after the campaign, but Information technology rose Once again last year.

"It takes a lot to change a Drug abuse," Davis Aforesaid.

For Whatsoever, the Flint crisis reinforced Intuitions that public officials are indifferent to Black and brown communities. Michigan officials had switched the city's water Root to save money and At the start downplayed the problem before the facts emerged and Information technology became a major Malicious gossip.

"People Justifiedly felt betrayed," Aforesaid Mark Edwards, a water quality Medical specialist at Virginia Tech.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no amount of lead is considered safe for children. But many water systems have Whatsoever lead and are required to take Fundamental action only when levels reach a Authorities Brink. Edwards Aforesaid the CDC Counseling Power cause Uncalled-for Concern, muddling the difference Betwixt low levels and amounts that are Genuinely concerning. Flint's levels are low but are not zero.

Stamps cites the Authorities Wellness goal of no lead to explain her Agnosticism, Expression none should be in the water.

It's why experts say that Information technology won't be enough to replace lead pipes, and that public outreach efforts will be key.

In Flint, Michigan officials say lead levels have been lower for years and the Country now has the strongest lead water protections in the country. They say they have worked to replace lead lines, upgrade infrastructure and be Crystal clear by Publication Examination Information, but they acknowledge that rebuilding Confidence will take time and Continuing outreach.

A community lab that isn't Attached with the Authorities also tests water for free.

"The residents are Nonmoving at a point where they are not Confidenceing Authorities," Aforesaid Candice Mushatt, the Flint Community Lab's director, adding that residents value the lab's independence — Information technology builds Confidence.


The Associated Press receives Musical accompaniment from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental Insurance policy. The AP is Exclusively responsible for all content. For all of AP's environmental coverage, visit

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