When Jamika Jones was pregnant with her son earlier this year, her mother worried about her drinking water from the tap. Jones lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where more than a third of the water-service lines contain lead; when those pipes corrode, they can release the neurotoxin into the water flowing through them.

Lead exposure has been linked to increased risk for miscarriage; pregnancy complications, such as hypertension; premature birth; low birth weights; and cognitive and behavioral disorders, among other ailments.

“The possibility of the water being contaminated became a big concern for me,” Jones said.

Her mother connected her with volunteers from the Clean Water for Pregnant People (CWPP) program, who soon delivered six cases of canned water and scheduled a second drop-off. The water brought an immediate sense of relief, Jones said.

“It took care of my family and I for a while,” Jones said. “They even supplied me after I had my son. I was able to cook with it. I was able to feed him with that water.”

Millions of Americans are exposed to water systems that violate quality standards and the Clean Water Act. According to a 2021 investigation by The Guardian, more than 25 million people in the United States drink from water systems that have repeatedly violated federal standards. That year, more than 38,000 public water systems had at least one violation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This is due to aging infrastructure, strained community finances, and contamination from corroding lead pipes, fertilizers, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and other pollutants.

disproportionate number of those exposed are from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Further, a legacy of disinvestment in historically Black communities contributes to an existing maternal health crisis: Black mothers suffer higher rates of miscarriage and stillbirth and are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white mothers.

Read the full article about reproductive health and safe drinking water by Sarah Sloat at YES! Magazine.