Flint, Michigan has made the news because of lead in its water. Surely, such a thing can't happen in Seattle. Could it? Researchers from the Washington State Department of Health worked the numbers to calculate the risk of lead contamination across the country. The west isn't as clean and green as our image implies.
First, take a look at Flint. On a scale of 1 to 10, Flint is a 10. Not a surprise, considering the news; but move a few miles from the city and the risk drops dramatically.
Now, take a look at western Washington. There's lots of blue about. Broad parts of the area are as low as the data can go. Places like the Issaquah Highlands are particularly low risk.
Get closer to Seattle, though, and the risk rises. Down around Boeing Field and up by UW, the risk hits the maximum of 10, again. Yet, neighborhoods like parts of Mercer Island, Juanita, and those Issaquah Highlands have the lowest risk. Why?
The research was only a risk analysis, not actual measures of lead exposure or data about identified cases. Risk rises with the age of buildings and the wealth of the inhabitants. New, rich neighborhoods are built around codes and knowledge that drastically reduces the risk. Old neighborhoods that were built before we knew to worry aren't necessarily more risky, as long as people have enough money to make the necessary renovations. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.
If you want to dive into the data, check out the interactive map in the Vox article. If you're planning on buying a house, or already own one but don't know exactly what you have, keep in mind that there are ways to deal with improving your water quality and lowering your risk.
· Lead Exposure Map [Vox]