How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Tap Water
For many of us, family is everything – although they can drive us a little crazy at times. That’s why we encourage them to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and get plenty of sleep and exercise. But there’s one crucial area that doesn’t get enough consideration regarding our relatives’ health: the quality of water we provide for them at home.
We all know that drinking enough water is vital for good health. But it’s just as important to ensure your family members drink clean, filtered water free of potentially harmful contaminants, like lead, mercury, etc. As you probably know, lead is one of the most vicious pollutants found in water. It’s incredibly toxic for babies, young children, pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, and women who are planning to become pregnant.
What makes lead a grave threat to your family’s health is the fact that you can’t see, taste, or smell it in drinking water. It’s almost impossible to know if it’s secretly lurking in your kid’s water bottle and the water you drink and use to prepare food for your family – unless you test your water for the metal, of course. And since there’s no known safe level of lead in the blood, any degree of exposure could send you and your family members rushing to the hospital or the doctor’s office.
But there’s good news. Where government oversight fails, a safe and efficient lead-removal method steps in. While it’s not a long-term, end-all solution, it is a reliable safety-net, assuming you install the right one. Let’s dive deeper.
What is Lead?
Perhaps you’ve heard about lead, but you have no idea what it is. No problem. By definition, lead is a blue-gray metal that naturally occurs in small amounts in the earth’s crust. It is toxic to human health and has no nutritional value whatsoever. Still, it’s a valuable resource in manufacturing and other industries.
Lead is used to make batteries, ammunition, paint, ceramics, and other items and materials. It was also used to make plumbing materials. However, due to health concerns, manufacturing companies have reduced the lead content in paints, gasoline, and ceramic products.
How can lead get into your home’s water supply?
The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures. Some lines that carry drinking water from a water source to your home may contain lead. Similarly, household plumbing fixtures, pipe fittings, and welding solder made before 1986 may also have lead. But how can it get into your tap water?
It’s simple: Millions of lead service lines connect older homes to water mains across America. If the pipes are exposed to corrosive water or if the water sits too long inside them, the lead can leach from the pipes into the water being transported to your home.
If your home was built before 1986, chances are your interior plumbing has old lead piping that carries water to the faucet. Furthermore, plumbers used something called “lead solder” to connect external piping to a house’s internal piping. Many local departments consider this lead solder as a possible lead source.
Although homes built after 1986 are unlikely to have lead service lines, pipes, solder, or joints, it’s possible that submersible pumps, especially the leaded-brass variety, could release lead into the drinking water. Therefore, if you rely on a well, lead may also be a concern.
The amount of lead that leaches from a plumbing system and dissolves in the water depends on several factors, including:
- the acidity or alkalinity of the water
- the water temperature and quality
- how long the water sits in the plumbing system
- the age of the plumbing and how much wear the pipes have been exposed to
- the presence or absence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials
Health Effects of Lead
We worry so much about lead in our water at home because lead is extremely poisonous when ingested. Studies show that it can damage the brain and kidneys and lead to a higher risk of cancer and stroke.
Parents need to know that even low lead exposure levels can severely harm children, especially those under six years of age. This is because young children’s brain and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects. Also, below that age, children’s growing bodies absorb more lead.
The water used for formula-fed infants is a common source of lead, contributing 40-60 percent of an infant’s lead intake. Once ingested, they can suffer the following health effects:
- slowed growth
- impaired hearing
- damage to the brain and nervous system
- behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity and lower IQ)
The EPA also warns that, in rare cases, lead can cause seizures, coma, or even death.
Lead is also dangerous for unborn children as they can be exposed to the metal through their mother. If lead is absorbed into the mother’s bones from the blood, it can remain there for decades and recirculate in the blood during pregnancy, potentially poisoning the mother and the fetus. The metal mimics calcium in the body and causes reduced birth weight, premature births, and decreased mental ability.
But although children and young infants are especially susceptible to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults, too.
In adults, lead exposure can lead to:
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
- nerve problems
- muscle and joint pain
- fertility problems in men and women
- memory and concentration problems
As if that wasn’t dangerous enough, the American Cancer Society lists lead compounds as a probable human carcinogen with a link to kidney, brain, and lung cancer, among others.
Low levels of lead exposure usually have no obvious or immediate symptoms. They can go undetected until dangerous amounts have accumulated. Contact your doctor immediately if you or any of your family members experience any of the following symptoms:
- sleep problems
- abdominal pain and cramps
- aggressive behavior
- loss of appetite
- kidney dysfunction
- numbness or tingling of the extremities
- memory loss
Thankfully, lead can’t enter the body through the skin, so water containing lead may be safe for bathing and showering, as long as it’s not consumed.
Checking Your Drinking Water for Lead
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t see, taste, or smell lead in water. As a result, you could unknowingly feed your family lead-laced water. If you’re unsure or nervous about your water quality or suspect that it may contain lead, here’s a few ways to find out:
1. Contact your water provider
The EPA requires all community water systems to inform consumers about the quality of water flowing into their homes from public sources. As such, water municipalities often prepare and issue a water quality report to their customers each year. This report usually contains vital information, such as the tests done on the water in your area, the date they were conducted, and the test results. The test results typically include the levels and type(s) of contaminants detected in the water, if any.
Contact your water utility to request a copy of its latest report. If your water comes from a household well or other private water supply, contact your health department or move on to the other methods below.
2. Send a sample from your tap to a local water quality testing laboratory.
Most water quality testing laboratories can determine how much lead is present in a water supply. You should contact an accredited laboratory for more information on sampling instructions and containers, preferably in your area. Depending on the instructions you receive, you would most likely send water samples from your tap to the lab for testing. Laboratory experts have all the right tools and equipment to perform more thorough and professional tests on your water sample. These tests can detect lead and other contaminants that different methods likely wouldn’t catch.
3. Home testing with a water testing kit
A home water testing kit is an affordable and effective way to test your drinking water for lead. While water testing kits are less accurate than laboratory testing, they can provide important information about possible contaminants in your water.
Water testing kits are available for purchase online and locally. And more often than not, they operate the same. To test your water with a testing kit, take a test strip, expose it to the water you want to test (as per instruction), and note the strip’s new color. The kit usually comes with a color chart matching different tones to different contaminants. Test your water at least twice to ensure the results match up.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Family from Lead in Drinking Water?
When it comes to removing lead from public water sources, you’d think that the government – through the EPA – would closely monitor lead levels in public water supplies and work proactively to eliminate the toxic contaminant from drinking water for the public good. Just ask a resident of Flint, Michigan, or Newark, New Jersey, how that turned out for them.
If you’re all about keeping your family safe, but don’t know how to protect them from lead in water, we can help you get ahead of the lead. The most effective way to reduce lead levels in water is to install a water filter. Water filters are designed to remove contaminants and impurities from water to make it more suitable for drinking, cooking, and personal and household use. Filtration systems are also lifesavers in areas where tap water is unsafe to drinking, as long as they remove the proper contaminants like lead. Some even take away the sulfur taste and smell from well water, which is remarkable!
The EPA recommends using point-of-use (POU) filters attached directly to water faucets, inserted into refrigerators for water dispensers and ice-makers, or added to water pitchers and bottles. We suggest using a Springwell SWRO reverse osmosis (RO) under-counter filter, which targets and reduces lead and other harmful drinking water contaminants, such as copper, iron, aluminum, fluoride, arsenic, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, and many others.
Our SWRO filters are easy to mount under almost any size counter and impressively produces up to 75 gallons of clean, lead-free water every day. They’re also easy to install and maintain. Plus, when you purchase any one of our filtration systems, you get:
- a lifetime warranty on all parts
- a six-month money-back guarantee
- free shipping
- factory-direct savings up to 50 percent, and
- the peace of mind knowing that your new system is reliable and will combat all kinds of contamination problems in your water, once and for all
If you have any questions about our water filtration systems or need help choosing the right unit for your needs and budget, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our friendly and courteous technical team will provide all the information you need to make an informed buying decision, so that you can banish lead and other pollutants from your water supply forever.
When creating a safe and healthy home for you and your family, it’s vital to consider your home’s water quality. Lead is a silent hazard, so unless you test your water for it, your household members will be at risk of ingesting the metal through the tap and getting sick as a result. But thanks to Springwell’s affordable, reliable, and high-performance SWRO under-sink water filtration systems, you can reduce lead content in your water supply and keep your family safe. After all, what is a home without a happy and healthy family?