There could be a hidden danger lurking in your pipes. If you have an older plumbing system, there's a chance that your drinking water contains lead. Lead can cause serious health problems for both children and adults, so it's essential that you address the issue before you fall ill. Read on to learn more.
Do I Have Lead in My Water?
According to the EPA, if your house was built prior to 1986, or if your fixtures are less than five years old, it's worth checking into your lead levels. Your pipes themselves could be made of lead if they were installed before 1930, and has only been banned from fixtures and solder for the past three decades. Even today, brass and chrome-plated fixtures can release lead into the water, especially when they are brand new. The danger drastically decreases if they've been in use for five years or more.
To find out if your plumbing poses any danger, your utility provider or local government can refer you to a water testing laboratory. You should test your water at each faucet and outlet, because lead can come from specific pipes and therefore contamination can be localized. Your doctor can also test your family’s blood-lead levels to determine if you have been exposed to hazardous amounts of the metal.
What Are the Effects of Lead?
Lead is especially dangerous to children, but it can harm adults as well. If children are exposed to lead, their mental and physical development can be temporarily or permanently delayed. Adults can be subject to brain and kidney problems, and lead has also been linked to strokes and cancer. Pregnant women should be especially careful about lead exposure because fetuses are very vulnerable to contamination.
How Do I Get the Lead Out?
If you have lead in your water and it affects faucets from which you get your drinking water, you can minimize the danger by consuming only cold water from the affected faucets, because lead dissolves more quickly into hot water. Also, lead accumulates over time as the water sits in your pipes, so run some water down the drain before you use it; this will help to flush out any lead that has built up. You can minimize water waste by filling a pitcher after the pipes are flushed and keeping it in the fridge so you have water to drink throughout the day without having to run your faucet every time. This will provide a short-term fix until you can make more significant changes to address the problem.
For a more permanent solution, NSF International and the Water Quality Association maintain lists of filters and products that can help you reduce the lead levels in your water. If your plumbing system is very old and your pipes are actually made of lead, you should consider replacing them outright.
Contact a qualified plumber who can help you evaluate your drinking water and advise you on the next steps. For additional information, contact local Benjamin Franklin®.