Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water
VanPort Property Inspection, llc, can test solder joints in older homes (pre 1986) and paint in homes built prior to 1978. Testing of water for lead can be done by various labs or your health department.
Have a question that’s not answered on this page? Contact the Safe Drinking Water Hotline.
EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.
How Lead Gets into Drinking Water
Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter the water, especially hot water.
Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has reduced the maximum allowable lead content — that is, content that is considered “lead-free”
Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Many factors are involved in the extent to which lead enters the water, including:
· the chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity) and the types and amounts of minerals in the water,
· the amount of lead it meets,
· the temperature of the water,
· the amount of wear in the pipes,
· how long the water stays in pipes, and
· the presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.
To address corrosion of lead and copper into drinking water, EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) under the authority of the SDWA. One requirement of the LCR is corrosion control treatment to prevent lead and copper from contaminating drinking water. Corrosion control treatment means utilities must make drinking water less corrosive to the materials it encounters on its way to consumers’ taps.
Health Effects of Exposures to Lead in Drinking Water*
*The health effects information on this page is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for lead. Rather, it is intended to let you know about the most significant and probable health effects associated with lead in drinking water.
Is there a safe level of lead in drinking water?
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur with an adequate margin of safety. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs). EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.
Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or more.
It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. If the level of lead in a child’s blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.
Can I shower in lead-contaminated water?
Yes. Bathing and showering should be safe for you and your children, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.
First, learn more about the water coming into your home
EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual water quality report called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for their customers by July 1 of each year.
Second, you can have your water tested for lead
Homes may have internal plumbing materials containing lead. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water. A list of certified laboratories is available from your state or local drinking water authority. Testing costs between $20 and $100.
For more information go to the EPA or CDC website.