When U.S. senators questioned Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt -- President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the EPA -- at his confirmation hearing on Jan. 18, he was unaware that any quantity of lead, however low, is dangerous in drinking water.
At the hearing, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland asked Pruitt if "there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body," according to The Huffington Post.
"Senator, that is something I have not reviewed nor know about," Pruitt responded. "I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption, but I've not looked at a scientific research on that."
The exchange occurred during a larger conversation about the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the EPA reportedly knew about elevated lead levels in the city's tap water but did not declare an emergency for more than half a year.
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"If there's an emergency situation, the EPA can enter an emergency order to address those kinds of concerns," Pruitt said of the events. "I think there should've been a more fast response, a more rapid response to Flint, Michigan."
Lead is a known deadly neurotoxin, and small amounts can cause brain damage and growth problems in young children as well as a host of other health problems.
"EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood," the EPA says on their webpage about lead in drinking water. "Lead is harmful to health, especially for children."
Ensuring that lead levels are as low as possible is one of the EPA's chief tasks.
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Senators also questioned Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times while working as Oklahoma's attorney general, about climate change, reports USA Today. Unlike the president-elect, Pruitt said that he did "not believe that climate change is a hoax."
"Science tells us the climate is changing and human activity in some matter impacts that change," Pruitt added. "The ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue."