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Experts weigh in on health effects of tainted water following Sandy contamination incident

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 22:54:51-05

SANDY, Utah -- The no drink order for Sandy residents has been lifted, but what is the health risk after hundreds of homes were exposed to high levels of lead?

Fox13 spoke with Sam Lefevre, Program Manager of the Environmental Epidemiology Program in the Salt Lake County Health Department.

"It's a metal that has no biological purpose so it affects every system in our body negatively," said Lefevre.

At low levels of lead exposure, Lefevre says the symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal.

"At a little bit higher levels it starts to impact the blood and you’ll have a little bit of anemia. At really high levels you start to have central nervous system problems with confusion and eventually [a] coma at extremely high levels," said Lefevre.

This is particularly concerning when it comes to infants and young children.

"That’s going to affect their nervous system and their brain, their developing brain and so they will lose a tiny amount of the potential that they had in their life," said Lefevre.

Parents may not notice the effects immediately, but their children could develop learning disabilities from lead exposure. While concerning, it's important to remember risks are relative when it comes to public health.

"In comparison to something like tobacco use or obesity this is a very small problem, but if you don’t have tobacco use or obesity and you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly then yeah this would be a bigger concern," said Lefevre.

The Salt Lake County Health Department encourages parents to take their kids to the doctor to get a test for lead. It's a cheap test and involves a small poke which will give parents an idea of what their child's lead exposure level is and help them determine how concerned they should be.

"Whether or not this will have a long term effect we don’t know for sure," said Lefevre.