Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water

What is lead?

It is a metal found naturally in the environment. It has also been widely used in gasoline, house paint and plumbing fixtures. The amount of that is released into the environment each year has been greatly reduced by less use of leaded gas, starting in the mid-1970's. Laws forbidding its use in house paint (1978) and plumbing solder (1986) have helped as well. Still, it can be a problem, especially in older homes.

Why be concern?

It can enter our bodies in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

A person is exposed to a substance when it enters their body. This metal can be harmful to health and cause problems when it builds up in the body. Too much in human body can cause serious damage to the brain, nervous system and red blood cells.

Pregnant women and young children are at the greatest risk even when their exposure is to low levels for short periods of time. Young children between the ages of six months and six years are more likely to suffer health problems from exposure. Too much exposure can slow a child's physical growth, mental development, and can cause behavior problems, mental retardation, kidney and liver damage, blindness and even death.

Who sets the safe levels in public drinking water supplies?

In July of 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established an action level in public drinking water at 15 micrograms per liter, which is the same as 15 parts per billion (ppb). Water suppliers must routinely test household tap water to check levels. If levels in the water are above the EPA action level and can not be quickly corrected, the water supplier is required to notify homeowners and take steps to reduce the metals levels in the drinking water.

How does it get into our drinking water?

Drinking water contamination usually results from the use of lead pipes in water systems or solder on water pipes. It leaches into our water. Water left standing in the pipes over a long period of time also increases leaching. The longer the water stands in the pipes, the greater the possibility of contaminating water. And pipes that carry drinking water from the source to homes can contribute to the contamination to the drinking water, if the pipes were constructed or repaired using lead materials.

How can you remove it from your families drinking water?

There are simple steps you can take

* Flush the water taps or faucets. Do not drink water that has been sitting in the plumbing lines for more than six hours. The longer that water sits in pipes, the greater the exposure to lead and possible contamination. Before using water for drinking or cooking, run the cold water faucet for two to three minutes, until you can feel that water has become as cold as it can get. You should do this for each drinking water faucet. Allowing the water to run an extra 15 seconds after it feels cold should flush the service connector as well.

* Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Hot water dissolves lead more quickly than cold water. Using cold water is especially important if you are preparing baby formula. Heat the water you need for formula on the stove or in the microwave oven.

* Treat well water to make it less corrosive.

* If you are building a home, state in writing that only lead-free materials are to be used for plumbing installation.

* Use a point-of-use filter to remove it before it is used in cooking or for drinking.

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