Lead poisoning is dangerous and can cause damaging physical and behavior problems, especially in children. You and your family can be potentially exposed to lead through lead paint, lead-contaminated soil and dust, and lead in tap water.
The water leaving the treatment plant and traveling through water mains is almost always free of lead. But lead can sometimes be found in pipes connecting older homes to the water system or in fixtures and home plumbing, so AWWA recommends the following steps to protect you and your family from lead in tap water:
Have your water tested
Contact your water provider to see if it has home testing options available. If not, it can help you find a certified laboratory to test your water. Tests typically run between 15 and 50 dollars.
Find out if you have a lead service line
Your utility may or may not know if you have a lead service line. If not, you can find out yourself or with the help of a licensed plumber. Service lines typically enter the home in the basement or crawl space. If the pipe is lead, it will have a dull finish that shines brightly when scratched with a key or coin. Using a magnet can also help you identify a lead pipe, because even a strong magnet will not cling to lead.
Have your plumbing inspected
A licensed plumber can inspect both your service line and other materials in contact with your drinking water. Lead solders, pipe fittings and brass fixtures can be potential problems.
Run the tap before use
Lead levels are likely at their highest when water has been sitting in the pipe for several hours. Clear this water from your pipes by running the cold water for several minutes–which allows you to draw fresh water from the main. Your water provider or plumber can help you assess the right length of time.
Aerators are small attachments at the tips of faucets which regulate the flow of water. They can accumulate small particles of lead in their screens. It’s a good idea to remove your aerators at least monthly and clean them out.
Use cold water
Begin with cold water for drinking, cooking or preparing baby formula, because hot water dissolves lead more quickly.
Filter the water
Many home water filters are effective at removing lead. If you purchase a filter, make sure it is certified for lead removal and that you maintain it properly. Find out more on filter certification at www.nsf.org.
Replace lead service lines
If you have a lead service line, talk to a licensed plumber about getting it replaced. Contact your utility to see if there are payment options or rebate programs.
Replace other plumbing that contains lead
Hire a licensed plumber to look for and replace lead solder, fixtures or other potential sources of lead.
Review our Lead in Water page to learn more.
Infographic courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, available on its Lead in Drinking Water webpage.