Lead and Copper Rule: Protecting Communities from Lead in Drinking Water

Even in small amounts, lead can cause irreversible brain damage in children, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people.

Case Overview

The Lead and Copper rule, or LCR, regulates the control and monitoring of lead in drinking water. Revisions to the rule, finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2021, dramatically slow down the rate at which lead pipes are required to be replaced. The new rule also allows small public water systems required to replace lead service lines to avoid replacing them altogether, even if those systems continually exceed the lead action level.

Most of the lead found in drinking water comes from lead service lines, according to the EPA. Lead service lines naturally corrode when water flows through them.

EPA estimates there are as many as 10 million lead service lines in the country, and researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people. Communities of color are disproportionately affected. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11.2% of African-American children and 4% of Mexican-American children are poisoned by lead.

"Dropping" by Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/https://flic.kr/p/cFMbPE
Children in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by lead in the city's tap water. (Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Case Updates

February 16, 2024 In the News: Kenosha News

In race to prevent lead in our drinking water, who is being left behind?

Suzanne Novak, Attorney, Northeast Office: “If we don’t prohibit charging a customer, we may very well end up with a two-tiered system, where wealthier communities, which are disproportionately white, will have more of their lead service lines replaced than in other communities.”

February 5, 2024 document

Comments on Lead and Copper Rule Improvements Rule

Earthjustice comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead and Copper Rule Improvements rule.

Colorful insulated cups with handles and straws on a shelf in a store.
February 1, 2024 Article

Worry About Lead in Your Drinking Water, But Not From Stanley Cups

The trendy water bottles have raised concerns about lead poisoning. While experts say the cups are safe, here's where lead exposure is a problem in our lives and what we can do about it.