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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Avoiding Environmental Contamination

Jennifer M tells how to find out if your home water pipes are contaminated with lead, and points out the invisible dangers of carbon monoxide at street level, just at the height of small children. Originally published in Currents March 2000, Children's Corner Column.

Did you know that buildings from the turn of the last century in Hamburg often have lead pipes, which means if you live in such a building, your water could be contaminated. For a normal, healthy person, lead poisoning is not the best thing; but for a pregnant woman or an infant, lead poisoning could lead to severe complications and even birth defects. Fortunately, the Hamburg Water Company (Hamburger Wasserwerk) is aware of these dangers and offers free water testing for pregnant women and women with children under one. Pick up a water testing kit at their office at: Rathausstraße12 (just beside Hamburg's City Hall), Tel. 78 88 25 55. Bring your Mutterpass and/or Einwohner Anmeldung as proof, or the test will cost you DM 300!

Furthermore, did you know that carbon monoxide and other exhaust fumes from cars and trucks are heavier than air. This means that the poisonous gasses hover at ground level near streets and sidewalks. For normal-sized adults, our height exempts us from over-exposure to these dangerous fumes; but for small children and babies in carriages or strollers, the exposure level can have negative effects on your child's health. One way to reduce the danger to your children, other than moving out of the city, is simply to stand or walk at least 3 feet away from the curb. At this distance, the hazardous concentration of gasses has dissipated and poses less of a threat. Be careful, I have found that this distance puts me exactly in the middle of the bike lane! Ding! Ding!

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