Many people know that lead exposure can be harmful to human health. And many know that one source of exposure is lead paint. But there are other ways to be exposed to lead, including from tap water. Awareness about the issue has increased recently as some high-profile incidents of lead water toxicity have been in the national news. Here’s what you need to know about lead and how it gets into your water.
Lead in Drinking Water
Lead is in the pipes and solder that deliver tap water into a home or other building. As those pipes get older and wear out, they corrode, which means their metal materials wear away and dissolve as a result of the interaction chemically of the plumbing materials and the water. That is especially true in locations where water contains low mineral levels or high levels of acidity. Faucets and fixtures that have brass and chrome-plated brass are particularly problematic, as high levels of lead can come from them. Water coming out of those types of pipes and materials can contain lead. Not all homes are equally at risk. Homes that were built before 1986 have more lead solder, pipes and fixtures.
Health Effects of Ingesting Lead
Lead in water is such a serious concern because of the health effects that can occur as a result of drinking lead-contaminated water. And those health effects can occur even from a low level of lead exposure. Lead stays in the body once it is there, so its level can continue to inch up over time. Lead damages every system in the body, with the effects being very bad in the brain. The specific health effects include problems with the brain, reproductive system, diminished kidney function, higher blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
Effects on Children
Unfortunately, children are more severely affected by lead than adults are. No level of lead is safe for children, and even low exposure can cause learning problems, central nervous system damage, peripheral nervous system damage, behavioral issues, slowed growth, hearing problems, hyperactivity, decreased IQ, damaged functioning of blood cells and anemia. Drinking lead contaminants in water can rarely result in seizures and even death. The younger a child is, the more susceptible they are to the negative effects of lead. An unborn baby can even be exposed to lead that crosses the placenta during pregnancy. And lead can contribute to premature birth and to a fetus’ growth being decreased. Lead can also go from mother to baby through breast milk.
Although the effects of lead ingestion on children can be severe, everyone should be concerned. Again, no level of lead is safe for adults or children, and lead reduction should be everyone’s goal.
Filters Reducing Lead
Despite the risk of lead, there are steps you can take to limit your family’s exposure and protect them from lead contaminants. A key step involves using water filters that reduce lead levels in the water by capturing various contaminants, including lead, as the water flows through them. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking. Monitor the filter, and change it as often as needed. Currently Discountfilters.com carries two models of the lead filter, the DA29-00020B (clch105) and the LT700p (clch106) but will release more models in the upcoming months. (ultrawf, wf3cb, gswf, mswf and 644845 coming this week!)
In addition to using filters, there are some important tips to keep in mind. Cold water tends to be lower in lead than hot water is. Boiling water does not reduce its lead level. Check with your local water or other utility company to monitor lead levels. And remember, you can rest easier by using quality water filters that reduce lead contaminants.