Lead in water can be extremely dangerous and is not something to take risks with. It can have a profound effect on adults, but especially on children. Here, we’re answering questions on why lead can sometimes be found in drinking water, the risks, and how to remove lead.
How Lead Gets in The Water Supply
Lead only enters the water supply through pipes, and the corrosion that the metals which pipes are made of can experience. If water has an acidity score which is high, it is more likely to cause pipes to corrode. This is also more likely in a hot environment.
As we have developed more of an understanding of lead in water and its dangers, more regulations have been introduced. Homes which predate 1986 and the SDWA or “Safe Water Drinking Act” are more likely to have pipes containing lead, or even solder which contains lead and can get into drinking water.
Since the SDWA, the allowable content of lead in water has to be under an average of 0.25 percent in pipes. This means there is less chance in modern homes with modern pipes of lead getting into the water.
Safe Lead Levels
The Safe Drinking Water Act means that the regulations for maximum lead levels in water is zero. This means it can not be tolerated even in tiny amounts. Lead can stay in the body for a long time, as it is what is called a ‘persistent’ material, and exposure to it is very dangerous. This is regulated by the EPA, who set the contaminant level.
Water with lead in it is not safe to drink, but it is safe to shower or bathe in. Lead cannot be absorbed through the skin.
Being exposed to lead becomes a problem when it gets into the bloodstream. Even small amounts can cause problems, but high levels of lead, 5 micrograms per deciliter or more as stated by the EPA, can cause huge large problems. This can lead to anemia, lower IQ, behavioural issues, stunted growth and in bad cases even comas and death. In infants, the exposure has worse effects.
Finding Lead in Water
If you get your water from a mains supplier, they will have a Consumer Confidence Report which is issued before July each year. This report is required, and you have a right to see it. This will give an idea of other issues in your local area people may have had with their water.
If you get your water from a private source, you can get it tested by your local health department. The Environmental Protection Agency can also point you in the direction of accredited agencies who can test. This may carry a fee, but is usually under $100.
The EPA, who are government controlled, have issued this help sheet which can assist you with identifying lead, and it tells you what to do about it.
How to Remove Lead from Water
There are multiple ways you can remove lead from your water. Safe products which can easily be installed in your home can ensure safe drinking water.
Water can be distilled, but it requires heat over a long period of time and this is not an efficient way of doing it.
Carbon based water filters can also remove a lot of the lead from the water, but they need to be carefully monitored as the filter may need replacing after a short space of time.
The best method of reducing lead in water at the point it is released (under your sink, for instance) is Reverse Osmosis. Reverse Osmosis filters can be fitted at your water supply. They work by forcing untreated water through a ‘membrane’ which dissolves minerals and salts from the water and leaves them behind in a ‘reject’ area. This will leave your water clear and safe to drink.
If your water supply contains lead then you should be able to do something about it by contacting your supplier or getting assistance from the EPA. The safest method of getting protection within your home is to install a filter, with RO filters being the most reliable way to do so.