How to Test for Lead in Your Home Water Supply

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Lead Pipes

The recent Flint, Michigan water crisis might lead you to wonder if your home’s water supply contains lead. According to the EPA, up to 20% of all lead exposures comes from water that is exposed to lead. If there are babies in a house, they can get up to 60% of their total lead exposure just from drinking formula that is made with lead-contaminated water.

Once it enters a person’s system, lead stays for a long time, collecting in the blood stream and becoming toxic over time. While research has shown that lead is not absorbed through the skin when you are bathing, if it is used for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth, it can still be dangerous.

How does lead get into a water supply?

In Flint, the water is being contaminated by lead in the plumbing materials. This is one of the most common ways for residential water supplies to be contaminated by lead. Your faucets, fittings, solder, or even the pipes themselves might contain lead, which, over time, seeps into the water. Any home built before 1986 is likely to have plumbing that contains lead. This does not necessarily mean that there is lead in your water supply, just that there is a higher chance of there being lead in your water.

How can I figure out if there is lead in my water supply?

The first thing you need to do is to call the facility that supplies your water. Ask for them to send you a copy of the consumer confidence report, which should tell you when the water was last tested and what the levels of different minerals were during that test. If there were fewer than 15 parts per billion, your water is safe.

If the level of lead is higher than 15 parts per billion, stop using your hot water, as warm water is more likely to release lead from your pipes. Install a filter that says it filters lead.

Even if the test provided to you says that you have acceptable levels of lead in your water, you might still want to test it yourself. Ask your water supplier if they can come test your water. If not, get a water testing kit, which allows you to collect water and send it to a lab for testing.

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