Washing Hands to Avoid Covid-19 Could Be Issue for Many

Handwashing can help people avoid COVID-19, but this simple activity can be difficult for millions of people in the U.S. because they do not have access to clean water.  

Researchers found in 2015 that nearly 21 million Americans or more than 6 percent of the population relied on water supplies that violated nationwide health standards, including lead. Many of those people are still exposed today to contaminated water, Business Insider reported. Oscar Granaeos, a resident and father of four in Newark, N.J., is quoted about his worries that the water in his home could expose his family to lead.  "I have a newborn, and even if I wash a cup, there's the possibility that something could stick to it, and that could affect them in the future," he said.

Exposure to lead in drinking water has different effects on adults and the young. Lead could contribute to heart problems, like hypertension, and decreased kidney function and reproductive problems in adults, while children are likely to exhibit behavior and learning problems, lower IQ levels, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  An article in the American Journal of Public Health, published in 2017,  reported that people of color and low-income residents commonly live in areas with water contaminants or are prone to lead contamination. According to the Business Insider article, 9,000 households in Detroit lost their water supply in January because of unpaid bills and nearly 68 percent of those houses were then abandoned or unoccupied in April. These neighborhoods without access to clean water in the city have high cases of COVID-19.

"This is not people not wanting to pay their bills — these are Detroiters that are either disabled, unemployed or the working poor that cannot meet the high, increasing costs of water in the city of Detroit," Cecily McClellan, founder of We the People of Detroit, told Business Insider. Thousands of families in Detroit and Newark have been relying on donated bottled water amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But restrictions set to control the spread of the disease also limited their sources of clean water.  Many retailers have been required to provide only two large water bottles to people to avoid hoarding of in-demand supplies. Stay-at-home orders also made it difficult to get donations of water.

Newark reported in early July its first positive lead-testing results in three years. The average lead levels in the city’s water supply dropped below 15 parts per billion.

Water In Picture: A glass is filled in with water on April 27, 2014 in Paris. Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

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