Lead Facts: What Do I Need to Know?
Lead is a toxic metal that can enter drinking water from corroded pipes and plumbing materials. Flint’s new water source is more corrosive to lead pipes, which is how lead may be entering the water system.
Lead is most harmful to pregnant women, women who are nursing, and children under age 6. Your child’s mental and physical development can be irreversibly stunted by lead poisoning.
Lead can damage the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
According to the EPA, 15 ppb is the maximum recommended level of lead in household water.
Bathing and showering in water with high lead levels is okay — human skin does not absorb lead in water.
Take the following safety precautions to help reduce lead in your home water system.
USE FILTERED TAP WATER
If you are pregnant or have children under age 6, use cold, filtered tap water for drinking and cooking until all lead sources are removed. This includes water used for making infant formula, beverages and ice.
Select a filter certified to meet NSF Standard 53 for lead. The filter package should specifically list the device as certified for removing the contaminant “lead.”
Routinely replace filter cartridges according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
RUN THE COLD WATER TAP FOR FIVE MINUTES BEFORE USING IT FOR DRINKING AND COOKING
Lead and other metals can dissolve in water when it sits in pipes for a few hours.
DO NOT USE THE HOT WATER TAP FOR DRINKING AND COOKING
Always use cold tap water, including water used for making ice, beverages and washing dishes. Hot tap water can cause a greater amount of lead to release from plumbing and may contain metals and bacteria that build up in the water heater.
REMOVE AND CLEAN FAUCET AERATORS
Lead particles and sediment can collect in the aerator screen located at the tip of your faucet. Aerators should be replaced once a year and are available at local hardware stores.
REPLACE LEAD SERVICE PIPES
Replace a lead service pipe with copper pipe.
REPLACE HOUSEHOLD GALVANIZED PLUMBING
When lead is released from a lead service pipe and passes through galvanized pipes, lead can build up on the interior, corroded walls of this plumbing and release lead in household water. Contact a licensed plumber about replacing household plumbing.
FLUSH COLD WATER TAPS AFTER INSTALLING NEW HOUSEHOLD PIPES OR FIXTURES
New plumbing can release metals after installation. Flush cold water taps for five minutes at a high flow rate once a day for three days, especially before using water for drinking or cooking.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency