New Mobile App in the Works That Will Easily Test Water for Dangerous Lead Levels

pouring water into glass from a bottle, on blue background

Water can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. It can cause structural damages, as a full 98% of homes will experience some type of in their lifetime. It can also cause health issues, as the home’s drinking water can be contaminated with lead.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to the naked eye to see how much lead is in the home’s water. One man is trying to fix that.

For Sean Montgomery, it all started with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It has been over two years since the water crisis began, and more and more people — children especially — are coming forward daily, citing medical problems due to the dangerous water quality.

Ever since Flint city officials switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to a contaminated Flint River to save costs, residents of Flint were exposed to dangerous levels of lead that caused skin lesions, vision and hair loss, depression, anxiety, and permanent neurological damage.

It didn’t matter what type of house they lived in, either. From larger homes to manufactured homes, every person in Flint was affected. Manufactured homes — also more widely known as mobile homes — are popular in the lower income areas of Flint, the areas with the most cited injuries. This form of housing is actually quite popular all over the nation, and in fact, 17 million Americans live in these types of homes.

So, Montgomery, a neuroscientist and CEO of technology company Connected Future Labs, developed a mobile app that provides an easy way for citizens to test the quality of their home’s water. Called CitizenSpring, this app launched on crowdfunding site Kickstarter earlier in August.

Montgomery explained to Digital Trends his reasoning behind creating the app, saying, “When I first heard about Flint, I immediately thought: wow. Permanent brain damage in kids? Kidney problems? Not good. And as the year went on, it became clear that it wasn’t just a Flint problem.”

At first, Montgomery wanted to tap into the government’s data on water quality and make the information more accessible to people all over the United States. Unfortunately, he found a shocking lack of data available to the public.

All in all, only 27 states have reported childhood blood lead surveillance over the past two years. Montgomery feels as if this lack of information is capricious.

Take Texas, for example. This state has a child population of over 2 million, but only 184 children have been tested for lead poisoning.

So, Montgomery believed a mobile app was the next best solution as nearly everyone in the U.S. has access to a smartphone. His plan included software that would guide users through the process of testing water, whether it be a faucet, a drinking fountain, or any other concerning water source.

The idea is pretty straightforward. The user would buy a $10 strip test from a local supply store, stick it in the contaminated water, and the app would do all the hard work.

Once the strip is wet, the app would be able to interpret the results via what Montgomery calls “computer vision.” The app is able to automatically tell whether the lead levels in the water are within the EPA’s regulations. It is incredibly easy. The user takes a picture of their strip with their phone’s camera and the app will immediately give results.

It even works offline without an Internet connection.

Even more impressive is the fact that the app stores all the data from each individual user on a map within their cloud storage in order to make users aware of levels in their geographic location. The goal is not only to inform users of the potential threats to their water supply, but to petition long-lasting change from city officials.

As of right now, the states with the highest elevated lead levels are Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and California.

Montgomery explained the importance of this feature by stating,

“It’s an impoverished data problem. We don’t have enough data. By sharing the results of test, people can, say, find out if they’re testing a faucet that hasn’t been tested before….Part of this is empowering people to become their own guardians and watchdogs, so they can double check what’s going on and make sure that attention is being focused in the right places.”

The launch of CitizenSpring will remain relatively limited, as it will only test for lead for now, but Montgomery has many ideas for future testing abilities down the line. The app will first launch in iOS, with an Android version coming soon after.

The app is set to release in October of this year as Connected Future Labs hopes to gain more funding on the project. More information can be found at their Kickstarter page here.

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