Green Table Talk: Lead Poisoning & The Mental Health Crisis

May 25 , 6:00 pm 7:00 pm EDT

On behalf of Black Millennials 4 Flint, Climate Action Campaign, and the Environmental Defense Fund, we would like to invite you to attend our May 2023 hybrid episode of Green Table Talk on the topic “Lead Poisoning & The Mental Health Crisis.”   

study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal shows that early exposure to the toxic metal, which can be found in the paint and dust of old homes and even in local water supplies, is associated with increased mental illness in adulthood, including phobia, depression, mania, and schizophrenia.

As May reflects Mental Health Awareness Month, this panel will feature mental health experts, environmental justice activists, public servants, community organizers and policy strategists who work to uplift brown communities.


Kayla Shannon, Spelman College Student


  • Dr. Sarah Bailey, Flint Public Health Youth Academy
  • Lauren Owan, Lead Prevention Ambassador Alum, Black Millennials 4 Flint
  • Elise Tolbert, Senior Energy Campaign Manager, Climate & Energy Program , Union of Concerned Scientists

This episode will be hybrid taking place on site  at MLK Library in Washington, DC (401-A Conference Room, 901 G St NW, Washington, DC 20001) on May 25, 2023 6PM ET/5PM CT and will be streamed on Facebook Live here:

March 23 , 5:00 pm 6:30 pm EDT

2023 March Webinar

Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 2-3:30 pm PT | 5-6:30 pm ET
Click here to convert to your timezone.

All people deserve access to safe drinking water. As part of the UN 2023 Water Conference, we are highlighting the need to keep plastic—and its toxic impacts—out of our water systems. Plastics are a health threat at every stage of their existence and are a critical environmental injustice issue disproportionately harming rural, low-income, and communities of color on the front lines of plastic production and disposal. That’s why plastic is not the solution for replacing the toxic lead pipes that currently deliver water into the homes of 22 million people in the United States. With $15 billion designated for lead pipe replacement over the next 5 years, this is the time to influence how the federal and local government use these funds to provide toxic-free drinking water without plastic

During our March 23 webinar, we will discuss the health hazards of single-use plastic bottles and plastic pipes such as those made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We’ll recommend options for safe, non-plastic drinking water solutions during lead pipe replacement as well as tips and resources to ensure community water sources remain free of pollutants. These solutions are applicable not only for lead-impacted communities, but also the growing number of communities impacted by PFAs, microplastics, and other chemicals that commonly contaminate water resources. Tune in to learn ways to keep your family safe with filtered, toxic-free water. 

Joining us will be Brandi Williams, Good Trouble Department Civil and Human Rights & Fields Campaign Director, Hip Hop Caucus; Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James and 2021 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize; Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Dr. Terrence Collins, Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University; and Erica Cirino, Plastic Pollution Coalition Communications Manager and author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis. The webinar will be moderated by Madison Dennis, Filtered Not Bottled Campaign Coordinator, Plastic Pollution Coalition.


Erica Cirino
Erica Cirino
Communications Manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition & Author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis

Erica Cirino is the Communications Manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition and author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis (Island Press, 2021). In the book, she documents plastic across ecosystems and elements; shares stories from the primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, rural, and low-income communities that are disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution and injustice globally; and uncovers strategies that work to prevent plastic from causing further devastation to our planet and its inhabitants. Erica has spent the last decade working as a science writer, author, and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds, and she is best known for her widely published photojournalistic works that cut through plastic industry misinformation to deliver the often shocking and difficult truths about plastic—the most ubiquitous and insidious man-made material on Earth.

Dr. Terrence Collins
Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Terrence Collins is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry and Director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University. The Institute is dedicated to “the intellectual growth and technical education of a new generation of ethically aware professionals who understand and practice science in the pursuit of sustainability—from the molecular level on up.” Terrence earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Auckland with postdoctoral work at Stanford University. He has authored/co-authored over 250 publications, delivered over 600 public lectures, and holds over 20 career awards. He developed the first Chemistry and Sustainability university class in 1992, and believes that “achieving a sustainable global chemical enterprise is first and foremost a human character challenge.”

Judith Enck

Judith Enck
CEO of Beyond Plastics

Judith Enck is the Founder and CEO of Beyond Plastics and former Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, where she oversaw environmental protections in New York, New Jersey, eight Indian Nations, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She founded Beyond Plastics in 2019 with a mission to end plastic pollution through education, advocacy, and institutional change. She is a Senior Fellow and visiting faculty member at Bennington College, where she currently teaches classes on plastic pollution. Previously, Judith served as Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the New York Governor’s Office, Policy Advisor to the New York State Attorney General, Senior Environmental Associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, and Executive Director for Environmental Advocates of New York. Judith is a past President of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and a regular contributor to public affairs discussions.

Sharon Lavigne

Sharon Lavigne
Founding Director of Rise St. James

Sharon Lavigne is the Founding Director of Rise St. James, a faith-based organization focused on preventing worsening pollution from and expansion of the petrochemical industry. An environmental justice activist based in Louisiana, Sharon’s work focuses on combating petrochemical complexes and their negative health impacts on local populations in her state as well as others that comprise Cancer Alley. She is the 2022 recipient of the Laetare Medal, the highest honor for American Catholics, and a 2021 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. She has testified before Congress and is also a collaborator on the Coalition Against Death Alley, a regional environmental justice group. She is also a plaintiff in White Hat v. Landry, an environmental justice case, focused on changes in Louisiana Oil and Gas law.

Brandi N.Williams

Brandi N. Williams
Civil and Human Rights, Good Trouble Department Field Campaigns Director for Hip Hop Caucus

Brandi “Bea” Williams serves as the Civil and Human Rights, Good Trouble Department Field Campaigns Director for the Hip Hop Caucus. She is an award-winning and accredited public relations professional turned broker for change who uses her diverse public relations background to negotiate opportunities, equity, and liberation for Black people. Brandi’s advocacy ranges from environmental sustainability to education and mental health. Recently, Brandi earned the Eatmon Award, which is given annually to a person dedicated to educating Black voters. Brandi received her certification as a health coach and launched SoulMed, a holistic health collaborative for Black women. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, domestic violence, and anxiety and depression, she believes health is a radical act of social justice that can help change the trajectory of outcomes for Black people. As such, Brandi is dedicated to ensuring Black people have access to one of the most basic human rights—clean water.


The U.S. government recently approved $15 billion dollars to replace toxic lead water pipes, also known as service lines, which an estimated 22 million people rely on across the country. The government has said it will prioritize communities with the highest lead exposure levels and most pressing environmental justice concerns. This is good news, but we need to make sure these funds are not used to replace lead with another harmful toxic material—plastic

Plastic Pollution Coalition has two urgent recommendations for municipalities and states that can protect community health and prioritize non-plastic solutions:

  1. Filtered Not Bottled. All households impacted by lead service line replacements should be provided with options for filtered water, not plastic bottles. Single-use plastic water bottles, like all plastics, are a health threat to people and the environment at every stage of their existence.
  2. Plastic-Free Pipes. Lead service pipes should be replaced with non-toxic materials, not plastics like PVC. Plastics can introduce additional toxic chemicals into the water with which they come into contact, further impacting community health.
Plastic is Not a Safe Replacement For Lead
Toxic Impacts of Lead and Plastic 2

During community lead-pipe replacement projects, state or local governments typically provide affected homes with bottled water for drinking and cooking. Yet, opting for single-use plastic water bottles simply swaps one toxic problem for another. 

Single-use plastics pose health risks at every step of their lifecycle, from production to disposal. Plastic production, shipping, use, and disposal pollutes the air, water, and soil. Low-income, rural, and BIPOC frontline/fenceline communities are unfairly targeted for plastic infrastructure, activities, and waste, causing widespread injustice. Plastic contributes to elevated rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and creates risk of fire and explosions where it is made and stored. Plastics are made of fossil fuels, and are significant contributors to the climate crisis.

Plastic water bottles leach toxic chemicals and microplastic particles into the water they carry, which people drink. Plastic water bottles contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are known to disrupt important human hormone functions

Most plastic water bottles, like all plastic items, are not recycled. Instead, plastics are commonly sent to landfills or incinerators, are shipped overseas, or are dumped and open-burned. Plastic poses additional health risks to communities located near plastic disposal facilities, infrastructure, and dumping sites. All plastic items break up into dangerous microplastics, which are found in human blood, lungs, placentas, feces, and breastmilk, and can disrupt the body’s hormone system and activate harmful inflammation to cause disease. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful health effects of plastic.

Lead-impacted Communities Need Filtered Water Now
Toxic Impacts of Lead and Plastic

According to a recent study, there are as many as 12 million lead pipes carrying water into 22 million people’s homes in the United States. Lead exposure is extremely dangerous to children, harming brain development, bone and muscle growth, and nervous system and kidney function. Lead pipes and the drinking water these pipes contaminate constitutes a public health emergency. The intentional placement of cheap lead pipes in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the United States is an environmental injustice crisis. States and cities across the U.S. must act quickly to remove toxic lead pipes and protect the children and families impacted by lead exposure.

Government funds for lead-pipe replacement will take several years to be distributed to states as either grants or low-interest loans. It may take several years for lead pipes to be replaced, so it’s important people start filtering their water as soon as possible if they live in lead-impacted communities. Water filters certified to remove lead should be used before, during, and up to six months after pipes are replaced, since the replacement effort can displace additional lead in home water systems. Filters are the best solution for providing clean drinking water to homes. 

Filtered water provides a safe alternative that puts human health first, spreading access to clean water in lead-impacted communities, while also reducing plastic exposure in communities located near plastic production and disposal sites. We still have time to influence how the federal and local government use these funds to provide toxic-free drinking water during lead pipe replacement.

Take Action

Take action today to ensure lead pipes do not replace plastic pollution. Learn more about the Filtered Not Bottled campaign on our website.