Unleaded is a joint investigation by The Missouri Independent and NPR's Midwest Newsroom exploring the issue of high levels of lead in children in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

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Kids in the Midwest will get more blood screenings under EPA plan to deal with lead threat

BY: - October 28, 2022

A study shows about half of children in the United States have detectable levels of lead in their blood, despite federal regulations that ban or restrict its use. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a new strategy to reduce exposure, particularly in low-income and communities of color that are disproportionately affected. On Thursday, the EPA […]

Fight over silica mine rekindles fears about Missouri’s Old Lead Belt 

BY: - August 29, 2022

Pickle Creek runs two miles through Ste. Genevieve County’s sandstone valleys. It carries some of Missouri’s cleanest water, but residents worry that could change if NexGen Silica gets full approval to mine sandstone on a 249-acre plot of land along nearby Highway 32. They don’t have to look very far to see the outcome they […]

Missouri Independent, Midwest Newsroom co-hosting community discussion on lead

BY: - August 17, 2022

A study released last year found that more than 80% of Missouri children had some level of lead in their blood.  Across the Midwest, in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, the data painted a similar picture — children with elevated levels of lead in their blood far above the national average.  Over the last six months, […]

Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids touts federal funds for lead pipe replacement

BY: - August 11, 2022

The locations of lead service lines seem like the sort of thing someone would know, Congresswoman Sharice Davids said Thursday.  But as cities and counties across the U.S. grew, water utilities didn’t keep track of them all.  Now, they’re finally required to find them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s updated lead and copper rule requires […]

Kansas, Nebraska researchers use plants to limit exposure to toxic lead in soil

BY: - August 8, 2022

In parts of the Midwest where lead mining and smelting lasted for over a century, communities are still dealing with toxic waste left behind by the industry. Lead, a dangerous neurotoxin, persists in the environment, including in water and soil, where it can pose a threat to the health of people living nearby. The risk […]

Items with lead are easy to find at antique shops, discount stores. They’re also toxic 

BY: and - July 25, 2022

A vintage military-style trunk she bought at an eastern Michigan flea market when she was a teenager became a staple of Jennifer Poupard’s life. Poupard, now 37, originally bought it to store her CDs. Over the years the trunk — styled with leather handles and metal buckles — served as a container for shoes, a […]

Missouri governor signs bill requiring schools test, filter water for lead

BY: - July 1, 2022

Efforts to eliminate lead in school drinking water got a huge boost on Friday, as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed off on legislation requiring testing and also gave his approval to $27 million in federal funds to help schools install filters. The new law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, requires schools to test their […]

‘Time bomb’ lead pipes set to be removed. But first water utilities have to find them

BY: - June 20, 2022

TRENTON, Mo. — It took three years for officials to notice lead was seeping into the city’s drinking water.  Missouri regulators had given the green light in 2014 for Trenton to start adding monochloramine to its drinking water to disinfect it without the harmful byproducts of chlorine.  But by 2017, the city noticed something alarming.  […]

Midwest states vary in how they handle risk of lead in venison donated to food banks

BY: and - June 6, 2022

HIAWATHA, Iowa – A walk-in freezer about two stories high sits in one corner of a warehouse owned by a food bank called Hawkeye Area Community Action Program Inc.   Chris Ackman, the food bank’s communication manager, points to the shelving racks where any donated venison the organization receives is typically stored. Known as the Help […]

How the lead industry misled the public about its toxic problem for decades

BY: - May 31, 2022

Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin. Researchers have known that for decades. But the substance stuck around in everyday products like paint and gasoline for decades.  One big reason: The lead industry spent years using racial bias to divert public attention away from the dangers of the toxin and minimized the impact of mounting evidence indicating […]

Bill requiring Missouri schools to cut down lead in drinking water heading to governor

BY: - May 12, 2022

Legislation on its way to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk could drastically cut down on the amount of lead allowed in school drinking water in an effort to protect children from the toxic metal. Across the U.S., millions of homes and schools are still served by decades-old lead water lines, which can leach the dangerous neurotoxin […]

Legislature on the verge of requiring Missouri schools test, filter water for lead

BY: - May 6, 2022

Missouri lawmakers are poised to require schools test and, potentially, filter drinking water to prevent lead poisoning, making the state one of just a handful that require administrators to meet standards stricter than federal regulations. The state offers grants for schools to pay for water testing, but there is no requirement to test, and only […]