Exposure to lead in drinking water has declined significantly in the last two decades due to implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule. But it is possible that there is still lead in your water supply, due to the quality of home water pipes, fixtures or the pipes that connect a house to the main waterline.
Dangers of lead in your home water
High levels of lead in drinking water can lead to a number of health problems, including hearing loss, inhibited growth and learning disabilities. At high levels lead exposure can lead to serious neurological disorders, organ failure and even death.
Because lead builds up in the body over time, ongoing exposure can lead to toxicity problems down the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control, infants are especially at risk “because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.”
How to test your water for lead
You can ask your local water authority for a copy of the EPA mandated Consumer Confidence Report, which documents contaminants found in water supplies. Some water authorities make their reports available online and you can find those through the EPA CCR site.
But the only way to know for sure the quality of your home tap is to test your water for lead. You can contact your water authority to see if home test kits are available. Alternatively, water test kits for lead can be purchase online for very little money, usually around $15. The lead water test test can be performed simply at home in a matter of minutes and you will get immediate results.
What to do if there is lead in your home water
If you have determined there is lead in your drinking water you will need to take steps to alleviate the problem. First you should contact your local water authority to alert them to the problem. With their help and possibly a plumber, you will need to determine the source of the lead. This may require replacing home fixtures, internal pipes, or the pipes that connect you home to the water supply.
If you are concerned about the quality of your home water you can immediately begin drinking bottled water or drinking water filtered through a system certified to remove or reduce lead.
Showering or bathing in water that contains lead is fine. According to the CDC, “Bathing and showering should be safe for you and your children, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.”
For more information on dealing with contaminated water, please visit the CDC.