At Aqua, public health protection is a cornerstone of our business. That’s why we take lead very seriously. As part of our efforts, we are supporting the national effort to raise awareness about lead poisoning prevention during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The question is what can the average person do to prevent lead in their drinking water?
Believe it or not, the average person, and especially the homeowner, can do a lot. Lead is not in the water delivered to your home. Lead in drinking water actually originates in the pipe (owned by the property owner) from the street to the home and/or in the home plumbing pipe, solder, and plumbing fixtures inside the home.
Aqua actually works hard to make sure the water chemistry we deliver to your street is not corrosive to help protect your plumbing, but every home is unique and can have specific issues beyond our control.
So let’s start with a couple simple things you can do, as well as some specific recommendations for renters. Remember let’s get the lead out!
1. Don’t cook, make baby formula, or drink from hot water. Lead can be more easily dissolved into warm water. Therefore, use cold water for your drinking and food preparation, especially baby formula and baby food.
2. Replace old faucets with new water saving and lead-free faucets. Did you know old faucets can have up to 6 percent lead in the brass inside them? We find old faucets with brass containing lead to be a big reason for why there are elevated levels when we sample at peoples homes.
3. Remove and clean your faucet aerators every month. Every faucet has a little screen on it called an aerator to make the water come out nicely. You can remove it, clean it, or replace it in most cases.
4. Get your home tested for lead! You can contact your local health department to ask if they can help you test for lead.
5. Do you have a lead service line from the street into your home? This is something you can check. If you scratch the pipe that is coming INTO your water meter, you can get a rough idea if its lead or not. If you scratch it easily and it looks the color of a nickel, it may be lead. If it looks like a penny, it’s copper. Click here to learn more. If you want, once you scratch the section, you can even use a simple home test kit for $20 and check it yourself. If you still are not sure, contact your water supplier and/or your local plumber for confirmation/investigation. If you can’t access your meter,then look at the age of your home. Some areas of the U.S. used lead service lines until 1955. If your house is pre-1955, then it’s a potential candidate for inspection/check.
6. If you have a lead service line, remove it! Don’t wait, contact a plumber and have it removed. If a water supplier is doing work and informs you that your service line is lead, get it replaced! Get the lead out!
7. Does your home plumbing have lead solder? If your home was built prior to 1988, it may have lead solder. Sometimes, do-it-yourself homeowners would do plumbing repairs using left-over lead solder after 1988. We have actually found large globs of lead solder in home plumbing below faucets that were replaced a long time ago. See #5 above on the test kit.
8. Use a home filtration device if you want added protection. If you can’t do any of items above and are not sure if you have a lead service line, can’t remove the line (you might be renting), or want extra protection, a home filtration device may be your best option. See the information here from the National Sanitation foundation on how to select the proper device.
9. If you are a renter, ask your property manager if they have a lead service line, if they tested the property for lead in the water, or to have the property water tested for lead. If you cannot get the property manager to provide the information, your local water utility might have information. If they do not and you cannot get the water tested and are still concerned, we recommend following item #8. You can also contact your local health department to ask if they can help you test for lead.
In conclusion, lead is serious business. As a parent, I know the worries we have about the things that can impact our children. Follow the advice above and lead in drinking water won’t be one of them.
For more information about preventing lead poisoning not only in drinking water but from paint and dirt, click here.