The amount of lead that is present in our drinking water is of particular concern to the politicians, parents and everyone in this country. Lead is known to be dangerous to humans, but children experience the most serious side effects. For that reason, we all need to be concerned about how much lead is in our water. If it turns out that there is more than is recommended by the government, we must be prepared to reduce it.
About Lead in Your Water
Lead in the water has been an issue for a very long time in the United States. It was known in the late 1800s that lead pipes were causing lead poisonings at that time. Governments of several cities began to restrict or even prohibit the use of lead pipes in the 1920s. However, the lead industry fought back by launching a campaign to encourage the use of lead pipes. They spoke to various organizations and federal officials to explain why lead pipes are superior to any other. Although the lead industry resisted the restrictions on lead pipes, more legislation has been introduced to reduce their use over the past two decades.
Just recently, the latest outcry over unsafe levels of lead has made its way to the news outlets. The city of Flint, Michigan decided to switch its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The problem is that Flint River is polluted, and the pollution caused the lead pipes to corrode. This led to an unacceptable amount of lead in Flint’s residents’ water, but this is not the only place that has had lead contamination. Even though your city does not have an issue like Flint, there could still be more lead in your water than is safe for you to drink.
How to Test for Lead in Water
It’s not possible to see the lead in your water. Therefore, you will need to have someone test for lead in water for you. Your community has a drinking water authority that is governed by the state or your city. This agency can give you a list of laboratories that will be able to test for lead in water for you. The test will cost anywhere from $20 to $100.
It would be a good idea to test your water for lead if you have lead pipes. The lead used in these pipes is very soft, and it can easily be removed and end up in your water. You might have non-plastic pipes, but this does not mean that you don’t have an issue. If your non-plastic pipes were put in place before 1986, you will need to have your water tested as well.
You also have the option of going to your nearest home improvement store and purchasing a lead testing kit. You will take samples of your water and then send them to the lab. When you contact your water authority to obtain a list of labs, also ask if the service connector that supplies your home with water is made of lead or not. The person you speak with should be able to tell you.
What Are the Safe Levels of Lead in Your Water?
The Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal for the amount of lead that can be in the water. That amount is zero. EPA officials don’t believe that any amount of lead is safe for human consumption. That’s because lead is a toxic substance to humans, and it doesn’t matter how little is being ingested at any given time. Lead remains in the body and can accumulate to harmful levels.
Ways Lead Can Get into Your Water
The plumbing in your home contains lead, and it seeps into the water as it runs through the pipes. This occurs when the pipes begin to deteriorate or corrode. Corrosion occurs when a chemical reaction takes place between the plumbing and the water. This causes the metal to wear away and seep into the water as it flows through the pipes.
How much lead enters the water in the manner described above depends on several things. For example, water contains minerals, and if your water has a significant amount of these minerals, your water will tend to contain more lead than if there were fewer minerals. If water remains within your pipes for a long period of time, the lead has more of a chance to enter the water at that time.
Another factor is the condition of your pipes. If the pipes have been wearing down for a long period of time, more lead has a chance to be removed from the pipes and find its way into the water. The temperature is also a factor in how lead gets in to the water. Hot water tends to have more lead than cold water, so it is better to use the cold water tap only for drinking and cooking.
Dangers and Health Effects of Having Lead in Water
Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to lead. The metal may not necessarily cause any harm to an adult, but children and the unborn can be affected negatively with very low levels of lead exposure. For example, lead damages the peripheral and central nervous systems. It also causes these kids to suffer from learning disabilities. They also tend to be shorter than other children because they do not grow as quickly, and they have trouble with their hearing. Most alarmingly, lead causes their blood cells to be deformed, and this prevents the cells from functioning properly.
Children who are exposed to lead also tend to have lower IQs than those who were not exposed to lead. These children are the ones who have behavior problems and are plagued by the effects of hyperactivity. In many cases, these kids suffer from anemia.
Exposure to lead can cause other very serious consequences. Although it is rare, children exposed to lead can experience seizures, fall into a coma, and they could possibly die.
A pregnant woman may have lead in her system before she becomes pregnant. The lead that she has ingested over her lifetime was stored within her bones. When the calcium is released to help form the bones in the developing fetus, the lead that is also stored there goes along with it. Lead can also reach the fetus through the placenta.
When there is too much lead in the mother’s body, it can stunt the growth of the fetus. It also can cause a woman to experience a premature birth and have a baby of low birth weight. After the baby is born, he or she can still receive lead from the mother through her breast milk. On top of all that, the infant could have brain damage.
Although adults are not as susceptible to the negative effects of lead as children are, they can still experience some deleterious effects. For example, adults exposed to lead can suffer from hypertension, and their kidneys may no longer function properly. Both men and women can experience reproductive problems because of lead exposure.
How to Remove Lead in Water
You have several things you can do if you find out that an uncomfortable level of lead is in your water. If a faucet has not been used in the past six hours, flush the water by running it for a short time. You may know that your plumbing contains lead pipes. If so, consider replacing those for pipes that do not contain lead. According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, you must choose pipes that are “lead-free.” That is obviously what you need.
Until you are able to have your pipes replaced, you can apply a filter to your kitchen faucet for cooking and drinking water. When you are searching for a filter, make sure that one of its intended uses is to remove lead. Not all filters are able to do this. You can also use bottled water.
You will want to purchase a certified filter. For this purpose, contact the Water Quality Association for a list of filters that have received the proper certification. Once your new filter is in place, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for the device.
Although the government set guidelines for the amount of lead that can be in the water, this doesn’t mean that we can forget about this issue. We now know that there can be high levels of lead in our individual houses and that we need to be the ones to address it. That means we must perform our own tests on occasion and then make changes when they are necessary. In that way, we will make sure that our families always have clean water to drink.