Following recent news reports about legacy lead-clad telecom cables, we feel it’s important to provide you with more information on the history, our statement on the matter, and educational information from our industry body, USTelecom. 

Latest Updates

July 25, 2023

There is no higher priority than the health and safety of our employees and the communities where we live and work. To that end, although we believe that lead-clad cables pose no public health risk, we continue to test sites where lead-clad cables are in place. As part of our ongoing collaboration with the EPA, we will be proactively providing testing data to the agency as it thoroughly assesses the matter.

We will be releasing some additional testing results: 

  • A second test of the underwater cables in Lake Tahoe, performed by a different, prominent expert, found that the lead-clad cables in Lake Tahoe do not pose a public health concern and that no lead was detected leaching from the Lake Tahoe cables. This reaffirmed the findings of the tests conducted in 2021.
  • Although the testing is ongoing, preliminary results of our aerial cable testing in the Detroit, Michigan, area confirm that those cables are not a significant source of lead exposure or a public health threat. There is no meaningful difference in measured lead levels between the soil directly below the cables and background levels in the same area (e.g., across the street where no cables exist). The lead levels in soil below the cables are less than the average household soil lead levels in the Midwest as reported by HUD and are far less than the EPA’s screening level for lead in residential soil. 

And as we previously shared, we will provide free blood-lead tests, upon request, for all employees who work on or have contact with lead-clad cables. When it comes to the lead-clad cables in our network, we have always done, and will continue to do, the right thing.

July 18, 2023

We care deeply about the health and safety of our people, customers and communities.  Consistent with that, we’re taking even more action:

  • We are working with union partners to add a voluntary testing program for any employee who works with or has worked with lead-clad cables. We will be offering the testing on company time and at company expense. This expands on our previous practice of providing blood-lead testing for technicians involved in lead-clad cable removal and following all applicable laws and regulations relating to the handling of lead-clad cables.
  • While we have previously tested lead-clad cables and continue to believe that they pose no public health risk, we take any health concern seriously and are conducting additional testing beyond Lake Tahoe, including the locations identified in The Journal’s stories.
  • We are performing in-person site visits where lead-clad cables are present to inspect their condition and determine if any action is necessary.
  • We are going to further study the cables in Lake Tahoe. This is in exact alignment with what the environmentalists behind The Journal’s reporting asked the EPA to do in an open letter on July 17. The open letter makes it clear that the condition of underwater cables should be further assessed to determine the risk posed to the public before taking any further actions. We plan to work cooperatively with regulators and other stakeholders on a risk assessment.

For more detail, please refer to the following filing made on July 18.

July 9, 2023

The health, safety and well-being of our people, our customers, and our communities is of paramount importance. For decades, we have managed legacy lead-clad cables in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and we have followed industry-wide best practices to maintain this legacy infrastructure in a way that’s safe for all based on established science.

We take the matters raised by The Journal very seriously, and any public health concern is a top priority. It’s important to note that The Journal’s reporting conflicts not only with what independent experts and long-standing science have stated about the safety of lead-clad telecom cables but also our own testing, which we have made available to the public and shared with The Journal. The scientific literature and reliable studies in the U.S. and abroad give no reason to believe that these cables pose a public health issue or a risk to workers when appropriate safety measures are in place.

Based on information shared by The Journal, it appears that certain of their testing methodologies are flawed and one of the companies responsible for the testing is compromised by a conflict of interest.

Any new scientific data needs to be studied further before arriving at conclusions about public health and safety related to these cables. Should there be a need for further analysis of this topic, we will work collaboratively with industry peers and other stakeholders and act responsibly.



Addressing Your Questions 

Lead-clad cables were foundational to the growth of telephone networks beginning in the 1880s. At the time, lead was the only suitable material available that was strong enough to guard the interior copper wires providing the critical communications infrastructure the public relied on – so strong that the services running through some of the telecom cables remain in use to this day.

Lead-clad cables make up a small percentage of our network infrastructure today. Generally, the U.S. telecommunications industry largely phased out the placement of new lead-clad telecom cables in the 1950s, after developing a new type of sheathing to protect the interior copper wires.

Over the decades since these cables were first installed, the industry landscape has vastly changed. Some cables have been removed due to severe weather disasters, construction work on roadways and bridges and to make way for new network equipment, the lead sheathing on cables has been replaced with a more modern sheathing during repairs, and some remain in place. 

Yes, and we’re compliant with regulations in cases where tests have been completed.

Most of our employees generally do not perform work on lead-clad cables. Those who perform maintenance and repair work on these cables do so on an infrequent basis, for short durations, using practices and personal protective equipment to control exposures.

When it comes to our team’s safety, we follow applicable laws and regulations, the guidance of work-safety authorities, and the established science. We continually work with our union partners and with our employees to ensure that compliance is rigorous and that our employees are safe.

To protect our employees, we meet or exceed federal and state OSHA requirements. Occupational health and safety laws include implementing safety programs and rules, providing safety tools and equipment to employees, evaluating employee exposure, providing training and reporting safety related incidents and concerns. Additional personal protective equipment is available to technicians upon request.

What Others Are Saying

Reuters: US EPA says no immediate lead health threats from telecom cables

September 17, 2023

New York Law Journal: The Wall Street Journal Investigative Series on Lead Cables: A Surprising Swing and Miss, and a Cautionary Tale for the Plaintiffs’ Bar

September 17, 2023

Washington Times: Wall Street Journal series on lead cables is a travesty of journalism 

August 30, 2023

DC Journal: Wall Street Journal Invents a Public Health Calamity

August 29, 2023

RealClearHealth: Bad Science and Pressure Groups Create a Potentially Toxic Mix

August 16, 2023

Times Union: State says Wappingers Falls park can reopen after finding no health risk from lead cables

August 10, 2023

The Toronto Star: U.S. report sparks investor concerns about old Canadian telephone wires coated in toxic lead

August 3, 2023

MarketWatch: AT&T says recent tests at two sites with lead-clad cables did not find health risks

July 26, 2023

The Daily Caller: WSJ Failed To Disclose Its Lead Cable Investigative Report Was Funded By Environmentalist Group

July 25, 2023

CNBC: The existence of lead-sheathed cables does not equate to a public health risk, says US Telecom CEO

July 21, 2023

Forbes: Unpacking Lead-Clad U.S. Telecom Cable Concern

July 20, 2023

Reuters: AT&T does not intend to immediately remove lead cables from Lake Tahoe 

July 18, 2023

Bloomberg: AT&T Says Less Than 10% of Its Network Has Lead Covered Cables

July 18, 2023

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