Lead in Drinking Water

Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can increase a person’s total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. 

How does lead get into tap water?
Typically, lead gets into your water after the water leaves the treatment plant. The source of lead in your home’s water is most likely from lead service lines, or solder in your home’s own plumbing. The most common cause is corrosion, a reaction between the water and the lead pipes or solder.

In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%.

How can I reduce lead in drinking water at home?
Flush your pipes before drinking, and use only cold water for consumption. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes the more lead it may contain. Anytime the water in a particular faucet has not been used for 6 hours or longer, “flush” your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take as little as 5 to 30 seconds if there has been recent heavy water use, otherwise it could take two minutes or longer.

Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.

Health effects of lead
Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, and food, certain types of pottery porcelain and pewter, and water. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body.

Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won’t hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies. In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination - like dirt and dust - that rarely affect an adult. It is important to wash children’s hands and toys often, and to try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.

Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water