Lead-covered telecommunication cables contaminating popular areas, investigation finds

(UI) – An investigation by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has found that old, lead-covered phone cables left by telecommunication companies could be contaminating soil as they age.

According to Insider, WSJ tested 130 underwater cable sites for the presence of lead. Some testing sites included the Passaic River in New Jersey, the Willamette River in Oregon, and the Detroit River in Michigan. Of the sampled tests, over 48 had lead contamination “beyond levels determined safe by the EPA.”

The EPA states that the standard for soil lead level near recreational areas is 400 parts per million. However, soil from a popular Louisiana fishing site was over 14 times the standard amount, WSJ reported. Linda Birnbaum, a former EPA official, said that the discoveries "suggest there is a significant problem from these buried lead cables everywhere, and it's going to be everywhere, and you're not even going to know where it is in a lot of places."

The WSJ also discovered that these underground lead cables can be found within half a mile of over 1,000 schools and daycare centers. Lead exposure in young children and pregnant mothers can lead to developmental delays and nervous system damage, among several other major health concerns.

While telecommunication companies such as Verizon could not be reached for comment, AT&T said, “conflicts not only with what independent experts and long-standing science have stated about the safety of lead-clad telecom cables but also our own testing,” in a statement given to WSJ.

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