Don’t Lead Time Pass You By: Learn How to Test for Lead and Remove it From Your Drinking Water
Lead seeps into your drinking water via older lead pipes.
Image via simonov (flickr)
Everyone is quite familiar with the dangers of lead paint; we all know that if you live in an older house, you must strip your walls of all lead-based paint and repaint them with a safer water-based paint. What you might not realize is the same dangers inherent in lead paint are also inherent if you have older pipes running the water into your home. Lead in drinking water is a common, yet vitally misunderstood, health risk. We worry about the paint and ignore the pipes. The good news is you can conduct a lead water test to determine whether your tap water is contaminated and then filter your water accordingly.
How Lead Enters Water
If your home was built before 1986 and the plumbing has never been replaced, it is pretty much a given that your pipes and plumbing fixtures are lead. Even if your house is newer or you’ve had your plumbing replaced, the EPA reports that plumbing declared “lead-free” is still composed of up to 8 percent lead. Over the years, as your water flows through the pipes they corrode, and the lead seeps into your tap water. Lead in water can cause health problems in both children and adults. Children exposed to lead in drinking water might experience developmental, decreased attention span, and learning disabilities. Long-term lead exposure to adults can cause kidney disease and high blood pressure.
How to Test for Lead
Due to the health risks and the fact that “lead-free” isn’t really lead-free – who’d have thought?! – you should conduct a regular lead water test as part of your home’s maintenance plan, regardless of whether your home is older or newer. A water lead test is easy to do and worth your peace of mind. In most cases, your water municipality or city government will offer water lead test kits to their residents. If they do not, you can purchase a lead in water testing kit, but be careful! Make certain the testing kit you use is from a certified laboratory that will, once you’ve provided the water samples as directed, return professional results. Don’t go for “Uncle Joe’s Lead Water Testing”! Make certain you’re testing your water through a lab recommended by the EPA or your municipality.
Yikes! There IS Lead in My Drinking Water!
So, you’ve tested your water using the water lead test kit provided by your water municipality, and your test results were less than favorable. What should you do? First of all, do not panic. You already filter your water for other baddies, such as chemicals and prescription drugs, and you can also filter your water for lead; you just have to use the right water filter! Much like your testing kit, New York State’s Department of Health warns that some lead filters don’t really filter out the lead in drinking water. Therefore, be certain your lead water test kit AND your lead water filter have the right credentials, i.e., the testing kits and filters need to be tested by EPA-credited laboratories, for example. You don’t want you or your family consuming even nominal amounts of lead – you already know the health risks and they aren’t worth it!
Wait – There’s More!
Aside from properly filtering your water, there are other things you can do to help remove any lead in water flowing out of your tap. The EPA and many other government agencies agree on these quick tips to help alleviate the amount of lead that your family is exposed to through tap water. They are:
- Don’t use hot water from your tap for any type of consumption. Hot water holds more lead. Only use cold water for your cooking and drinking. Better yet, only use properly filtered water!
- Run your tap for few seconds before you use the water – even when you’re simply brushing your teeth. A good gauge is to run the water until the temperature changes. This ensures your water more pure than when you initially turned on your tap.
- Additionally, if you haven’t run the tap for more than six hours, lead and other sediments have settled into the water. Make sure to flush them out first by running your water until the temperature changes before using it.
- Of course, properly filter all water coming into your home, including your shower water.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you know I have a passion for clean, pure water – both for consumption and recreation. Lead is one of the silent dangers that might be lurking in your tap water. The ease of testing for lead and properly filtering it out of your tap water definitely outweigh the risks of ignoring a potential problem. Don’t “lead” time pass you by! Test for and remove lead from your drinking water!
- Environmental Protection Agency: Is There Lead In My Drinking Water?
- New York State Health Department: Get Ahead of the Lead! Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water!
- Centers for Disease Control: Water — Lead
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Lead in Tap Water
- State of Connecticut Department of Health Water Division: Lead in Tap Water (PDF File)
- World Health Organization: WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (PDF File)
- Health Canada: Lead and Human Health
- University of Maryland: Lead Fact Sheet
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Drinking Water Problems — Lead (PDF File)
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Getting the Lead Out (PDF File)
Written By: Lynn Taylor