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Program aims to reduce childhood lead exposure on tribal lands in the Southwest

Flint lead pipe
Paul Sancya/AP, file
A lead pipe in Flint, Mich., where a massive lead exposure unfolded in 2014.

The Environmental Protection Agency has allocated $1.5 million dollars to reduce childhood lead exposure on tribal lands in the Southwest. It remains a serious health threat primarily through drinking water.

The funds were awarded to the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona through a federal grant program.

It’s part of an action plan aimed at expanding testing to identify sources of lead in drinking water at childcare facilities and schools on the Navajo Nation and other tribal lands in Arizona as well as California, Nevada and New Mexico.

It also includes detailed training for staff and methods to implement voluntary lead reduction programs along with public education.

A primary way that children are exposed is through drinking water.

Even low levels of lead in children, infants and fetuses can cause behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, stunted growth and other negative health effects.

In rare cases, higher amounts can cause seizures, coma and even death.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.