Practically everybody is aware that living in a home that contains lead-based paint can lead to serious health issues. What many people don’t realize, however, is that these same issues can arise from consuming food and water that contains lead.
Imported food items shipped in lead-soldered cans might contain lead. Food items served in painted ceramics might contain lead. And drinking water from homes with old pipes might contain lead as well.
How Might Lead Enter My Drinking Water?
Lead does not naturally occur in water, but it sometimes gets into it regardless because of nearby mining and/or smelting operations. However, the predominant reason for lead contamination is the corrosion of pipes and brass fixtures.
Almost all homes built before 1930 were built with lead pipes. Copper pipes eventually replaced these lead pipes, but it wasn’t up until 1986 that Congress got involved. This means that very old homes likely contain lead pipes. This in turn means that these homes’ drinking water is probably laced with lead.
Congress didn’t outright ban the use of lead in pipes. It merely said that pipes and fixtures cannot contain anymore than 8% lead. It just so happens that contemporary homes typically contain brass fixtures like brass faucets and fittings. The problem with brass is that it contains small trace elements of lead.
The water of a completely brand new home is very likely to also contain lead. What happens is that the small portions of lead in the brass fittings slowly leech out into the water. The good news is that over time, these fixtures will build up calcium carbon deposits that will prevent anymore lead from leeching into your water.
How Do I Go About Testing For Lead?
While there aren’t any laws saying that you must test your water for lead, it’s a smart thing to do nonetheless. This especially holds true if any pregnant women or children live in your home. You can buy a home water testing kit, but these tend to be very inaccurate, not to mention difficult to use.
Your best bet is to get hold of your local health department and ask them to give you the #s of water testing laboratories in the area. These laboratories will give you precise instructions on what you need to do to collect samples. They may also provide you with certain equipment.
There are a few things to keep in mind before conducting your test:
- Avoid using any plumbing functions for 6+ hours prior to the test.
- After 6+ hours has passed, quickly turn on the water and take a sample.
- Collect another sample after 5+ minutes has passed.
The first sample is known as a first-flush ample. Lead constantly dissolves and collects in water. Water that sits still for several hours will therefore hold the highest levels of lead. The second sample is known as a flushed sample.
How Do I Fix The Problem?
If the tests reveal that your water system does contain lead, you’ll need to take care of it. There are two ways to go about doing this. The more expensive and time-consuming option entails finding and eliminating the lead. This usually requires hiring professionals, lest you know what you are doing.
The easier and less expensive option involves simply adding distillation and/or reverse osmosis treatment systems. These will filter lead out of your water before it pours into your cup.
Anything Else I Need To Know?
It’s important to test your water. It’s an important step toward safeguarding your health. Ideally, every homeowner should test his or her house water. However, it’s absolutely mandatory that owners of especially old homes do it.