5 questions about lead found in Miami Valley Hospital water

Multiple locations on Miami Valley Hospital’s campus have elevated levels of lead in the drinking water supply, health officials have found.

Miami Valley Hospital was notified Friday by state regulators that lead levels found in the drinking water at the hospital’s southeast addition were above acceptable levels and may pose a health risk. After additional testing this week, elevated lead levels were also found in other buildings — the Berry Women’s Center and the Fred E. Weber Center for Health Education — at the campus on South Main Street near downtown.

Here are five questions you might have about lead exposure and the situation at Miami Valley Hospital:

What amount of lead exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards?

The EPA action level for lead amounts in water is 15 parts per billion. Risk varies depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed, according to the Center for Disease Control. Hospital officials said Friday’s lead levels ranged from 15 to 220 parts per billion.

Are houses and businesses near the hospital also affected by the elevated lead levels in the hospital’s water supply?

No. City water officials told us they have tested the water daily since the hospital reported the high levels of lead. The water supply to the hospital is separate from the city’s water supply. Michael Powell, interim director of the city’s water department, said Dayton has stepped up water testing in the surrounding area. There have been no detectable lead in the city water supply.

Why is lead in drinking water harmful to people?

We talked to a lead expert from the University of Cincinnati who told us more about the effects of lead exposure. Some of Dr. Kim Dietrich’s research has focused on the impact of lead exposure on children. Researchers have learned it can have an impact on cognitive and behavioral development. Chronic exposure can even lead to juvenile delinquencies and other drastic effects in children.

Lead poisoning can also cause damage to the brain and kidneys, interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body, according to Dr. Thomas Herchline, medical director at Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County.

What caused the elevated lead levels in hospital’s water supply?

Officials are still determining the cause or the source of the elevated levels of lead in some buildings on campus. A possible cause could be construction occurring near Warren and Brown streets, but it has not been determined as a definite cause. Dietrich warned people not to assume anything yet.

“There’s a lot of variables as to what could cause these elevated numbers,” Dietrich said. “I would caution anyone not to jump to a certain conclusion. It could be a sampling or lab problem.”

Has the lead exposure harmed any patients or staff members at the hospital?

No. Employees that were tested for lead exposure came back with normal results. Experts said exposure most likely have to be longterm to affect someone’s health — a short visit to the hospital wouldn’t likely cause any symptoms.

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