Skip to main content
Lead In Drinking Water: Understanding the Threat and Finding Solutions

Lead In Drinking Water: Understanding the Threat and Finding Solutions

October 25, 2023

The most common method of contaminating drinking water with lead is when plumbing systems that contain lead deteriorate and allow the lead to dissolve into the water.  The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) defines a "lead-free" plumbing system to be a weighted average of 0.25 percent calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux. This problem is normally found in homes older than 1986.  

The following discussion is divided into Understanding the Threat and Finding Solutions.  This is not an exhaustive discussion but only presents the high points of the issues.  

Understanding the Threat

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. A family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide information about the health effects of lead. State, city, or county departments of health can also provide information about how you can have your child's blood tested for lead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or more.

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. Contact your water utility if you'd like to receive a copy of their latest report. A list of certified laboratories should be available from your state or local drinking water authority. Testing costs between $20 and $100.

When lead is ingested or inhaled, the body absorbs the contaminant as if it were calcium.  This is why children are at the most risk of being affected by lead since calcium is used in all growth systems in a young body.  The following are the effects of lead in the blood even in low doses:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Anemia

EPA publishes information that Pregnant Women are also at high risk.  Lead can accumulate in the body over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium that can be used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus to lead. This can result in serious effects on the mother and her developing fetus, including:

  • Reduced growth of the fetus
  • Premature birth

Finding Solutions

The best approach to fixing a problem is knowing that you have one.  Important Steps you can take to identify and reduce lead in drinking water in your home is to take some simple actions.

  • Have your water tested for lead by a laboratory.  A list of laboratories should be available from the city or county health departments.
  • Learn if you have a lead service line in your home by calling your local water department (the line that connects the home to the main water line in the street.
  • Run your water through the line before using it; this can flush much of the dissolved or particulate lead in the line 
  • Learn about the construction of the water lines in your neighborhood. Local building departments can help with this information.
  • Use cold water for drinking and cooking; boiling water does not remove lead from water.
  • Clean the aerator at the outlet of your faucet.  Particles can get trapped on the aerator filter. 
  • If you use a water filter, then be sure to use the one that states it can remove lead particles.

The EPA, CDC, and health departments have all published documents to help people find sources of information on the exposure, treatment, and prevention of lead in drinking water.  This is a very important issue for everyone.  

Farsight Management owl icon.

Our Commitment

At Farsight Management we understand that not all indoor air quality companies are created equal.

We feel that it is imperative to educate ourselves, our employees, and our customers. You can trust that we follow all the national standards in regards to indoor air quality. This includes mold remediation, lead abatement, asbestos removal, and everything that we do.