Most of us do not think about lead in our drinking water, yet the EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Resources and government agencies are available to help families, homeowners, and communities determine and understand the health and safety of their drinking water.
How Lead Gets into Drinking Water
Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. In homes with lead pipes that connect the house to the water main, also known as lead services lines, these pipes are typically the most significant source of lead in the water. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1986. Among homes without lead service lines, the most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and plumbing with lead solder.
What can I do to reduce the lead in my drinking water?
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Exposure to lead at any level can be associated with adverse health effects. Therefore, consider taking the following steps to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.
- Determine if you have a lead service line, interior lead plumbing, or solder.
Property owners are encouraged to check their portion of the service lines for lead and to contact their water system if a lead service line is identified. If your home/building was constructed before 1988, it is also essential to determine whether interior lead solder or lead pipes are present. You can check yourself, hire a licensed plumber, or check with your landlord.
- Replace plumbing fixtures and service lines containing lead. If there is a lead service line, replace it in full, from main to home. Contact your water system before replacing your property’s lead service line. Replace brass faucets, fittings, and valves that do not meet the current definition of “lead-free.” The current definition was enacted on January 4, 2014; therefore, any “lead-free” plumbing materials purchased and/or installed before that date should be discarded or replaced. Visit the NSF website at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.
- Run the cold water to flush out lead. Let the water run from the tap before using it for drinking or cooking any time the water in the faucet has gone unused for more than six hours. The longer the water resides in plumbing, the more lead it contains. For those with lead service lines or until you determine if you are served by one, let the water run from the tap longer based on the length of the lead service line and the plumbing configuration in your home. In other words, the larger the home or building and the greater the distance to the water main (in the street), the more water it will take to flush correctly.
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Because lead from lead-containing plumbing materials and pipes can dissolve into hot water more easily than cold water, never drink, cook, or prepare beverages, including baby formula, using hot water from the tap. If you have not had your water sampled or if you know or suspect you have a lead service line, it is recommended that bottled or filtered water be used for drinking and preparing baby formula. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap and then heat it.
- Do not boil water to remove the lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
- Use alternative sources or treatment of water. If there are confirmed or suspected lead-containing materials, such as lead service lines and/or interior lead plumbing or lead solder, in your home or building, you may consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at 1-800-NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters. Be sure to maintain and replace the filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.Water softeners and reverse osmosis units will remove lead from water but can also make the water more corrosive to lead solder and plumbing by removing certain minerals; therefore, the installation of these treatment units at the point of entry into homes with lead plumbing should only be done under the supervision of a qualified water treatment professional.
- Remove and clean aerators/screens on plumbing fixtures. Over time, particles and sediment can collect in the aerator screen. Regularly remove and clean aerator screens located at the tip of faucets and remove any particles.
- Test your water for lead. Testing is essential because you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. The DEP DataMiner Toolcan be used for assistance in locating a certified laboratory for lead analysis in drinking water.
- Get your child tested. Contact your local health department or healthcare provider to find out how you can get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about lead exposure. Your family doctor or pediatrician can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead. Wash your children’s hands and toys often as they can encounter dirt and dust containing lead. New Jersey law requires that children be screened at both 1 and 2 years of age. Children 3 to 5 years of age should also be screened if they have not been screened before.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children and Adults
According to NRDC.org, In children, symptoms of severe lead poisoning include irritability, weight loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, and seizures. Adults with lead poisoning can experience high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulty with memory or concentration, and harm to reproductive health.
Even moderate to low levels of lead exposure—which might cause subtle symptoms—can still produce serious harm. Health effects include hearing loss, anemia, hypertension, kidney impairment, immune system dysfunction, and toxicity to the reproductive organs. Low levels of exposure can interfere with thought processes and lower children’s IQ and cause attention and behavioral problems—all of which affect lifetime learning. Children with serious lead-related neurological impacts are less likely to graduate from high school and are more prone to delinquency, teen pregnancy, violent crime, and incarceration.
We are committed to education and public safety.
Exquisite Property Services believes that building a solid and healthy community begins with taking pride in each property. We are committed to educating the public and providing services to keep our community drinking water safe. Karima Jackson is the owner and operator of Exquisite Property Services and recently became certified as a Lead Inspector or Assessor. She has completed the paperwork with the State of New Jersey for her company to be listed as a Certified Lead Abatement Contractor. Contact Karima to learn more about safe drinking water.
Please visit these links to learn more:
- The lead crisis is far bigger than Newark. Federal leaders must act — now
- Biden-Harris “Get the Led Out” Partnership
- EPA Launches New Initiative to Accelerate Lead Pipe Replacement to Protect Underserved Communities
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
- Lead in Drinking Water FAQs
- New Jersey Department of Health- Drinking Water Safety