Steps to Limit Lead Exposure
While water providers have taken steps to limit lead in drinking water,
you can take the following steps if you are concerned about your lead exposure:
- You can't see, smell or taste lead in your water. Testing at the
tap is the only way to measure the lead levels in your home or workplace.
If you choose to have your tap water tested, be sure to use a properly
certified laboratory. Testing usually costs between $20 and $100.
- Flushing your water tap is a simple method to help you avoid high lead
levels. Flushing clears water from your plumbing and home service line
to ensure you are getting drinking water from the main, where lead is rarely
present. Let the water run from the tap until it is noticeably colder (this
may take two minutes or more) before using it for cooking or drinking.
Flushing the tap is particularly important when the faucet has gone unused
for more than a few hours, because the longer water resides in your home's
plumbing, the more lead it may contain.
- The water from this "first flush" need not be wasted. You
can use it for other purposes such as watering plants. You also might consider
drawing your drinking or cooking water shortly after a high-use water activity
such as bathing or washing. Those activities will flush a significant amount
of water from your home's pipes.
- If you live in a high-rise building with many water pipes, flushing
the tap may not be effective in reducing lead levels. If you are concerned
about lead in your drinking water, talk to your landlord or consult your
local health department about ways to minimize your exposure.
- Use only cold water for cooking or drinking. Lead leaches more easily
into hot water than cold water. Boiling water DOES NOT remove lead.
- Have a licensed plumber determine if your home contains lead solder,
lead pipes or pipe fittings that contain lead. A plumber can also determine
if your home has a lead service line connecting your home plumbing to the
community water system's water main. The presence of these materials does
not mean you have lead in your water, but the potential exists.
- Make sure that repairs to copper piping do not use lead solder.
- Some home treatment devices remove lead, but not all do. Before you
purchase a home treatment device, you should verify the manufacturer's
claims. A good resource to assist you is NSF International.
- Once a treatment device is installed, make sure it is properly maintained.
Using bottled water is also an alternative. (Information on the lead levels
in bottled water is available from bottled water manufacturers.)
- Consult with your family doctor or pediatrician to receive a blood
test for lead and learn more about the health effects associated with exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children
be tested for lead.