Lead in Drinking Water

With its heightened awareness around the country in recent years, exposure to lead in drinking water has been a hot topic.  Many people know there are related health issues with lead, which causes concern.  Lead in drinking water seldom occurs from dissolved rock as water travels through the earth’s crust, like other elements.  It enters drinking water as a result of corrosion of service pipes or wearing away of the materials used in the water distribution system, and fixtures with lead solder, especially using hot water.   Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead in drinking water due to lead pipes, fixtures, and solder used in constructing the plumbing system.

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide guidelines, provided by the EPA, to determine the contaminant level in drinking water that give humans no adverse health effects on the body.  These guidelines are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG).  The MCLG for lead is zero because there is no safe exposure to any level of lead in drinking water.  As of 2014, the Safe Drinking Water Act made it illegal to install pipe or plumbing fixtures, solder or other plumbing materials that are not defined as lead free.  The US EPA has set an action level of 15 parts per billion when 10% of a public water system is affected by lead in water (1).  At this point, utilities must take corrective measures to safeguard homes supplied within their system.

Exposure to lead is a health concern because the metal will build up in the body over time.  Children are more vulnerable to lead exposure because a child’s body is smaller than an adult and are still developing.  Small children will absorb 30-75% of the lead they ingest (2).  Exposure to lead in children can lead to reduced intelligence, impaired hearing, and decreased growth (3).  A pregnant woman and her child are at risk because the uterus supplies the baby with food and oxygen during the developmental process.  When using water in the home for bathing and showering, it is safe since skin will not absorb lead.

To combat lead in drinking water, have it tested.  If your home’s water is supplied by a public water system, every year by July a Consumer Confidence Report must be supplied to those homes being served.  It is best to contact your water supplier to discuss the test results.  Homes on a private well will need to contact a state certified laboratory to have their water tested.  The test will consist of water samples first draw in the morning and after the water has been turned on for 5 minutes.  If you receive a positive test result, it is best to contact a certified water professional through the Water Quality Association to provide your home lead free water.

A homeowner can take these actions to reduce or remove lead from their home’s water supply. Since lead will exist in water in an array of forms, more than one type of action may be needed.
∙ drink bottled water.
∙ use only cold water for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula.
∙ regularly clean your faucet’s screen (aerator).
∙ before drinking the water, flush the pipes by letting the water run for a short amount of time.
∙ replace lead plumbing lines inside and outside of the home.
∙ install a certified product for lead removal such as a reverse osmosis drinking water system.  A Kinetico K5 system will remove 96% – 97% of lead in the drinking water.

Since there is no safe level of lead exposure in water, it is best to research your home’s water for this contaminant.  As more and more reports of lead in tap water become news, it is important to understand how to safeguard your family.  Understand your home’s plumbing and what products were used.  Have your water tested. Install equipment to give your family peace of mind when turning on the faucet for a glass of water.  We have certified water specialists on staff to answer any questions you have regarding lead in drinking water.  We can be contacted at (815) 385-3093 or contact us.

  • USA Today Online – How much lead in water poses an imminent threat?
  • Water Quality Association Lead Fact Sheet – https://www.wqa.org/Portals/0/Technical/Technical%20Fact%20Sheets/2016_Lead.pdf
  • Water Quality Association Lead Fact Sheet – https://www.wqa.org/Portals/0/Technical/Technical%20Fact%20Sheets/2016_Lead.pdf