Fact Sheet: Lead


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Lead
Category: Inorganic
MCL: Action Level >0,015 mg/L
Source: Lead pipe, lead-based solder, brass fixtures
Effect: Kidney and nervous system damage
Followup: Treat water, then retest
Treatment: Corrosion control; Filter

Lead is a metal found in natural deposits. It is sometimes used in household plumbing materials or in water service lines used to bring water from the main to the home. Lead may occur in drinking water either by contamination of the source water used by the water system, or by corrosion of lead plumbing or brass fixtures. Corrosion of plumbing is by far the greatest cause for concern. All water is corrosive to metal plumbing materials to some degree.

Short Term: Interference with red blood cell chemistry, delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, slight deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and slight increases in the blood pressure of some adults. Long Term: Stroke and kidney disease; cancer.

Often, first draw results are over the action level, and flushed results are below the action level. This is usually caused by corrosive water. Refrain from consuming water that has been in contact with your home’s plumbing for more than six hours. Before using water for drinking or cooking, “flush” the cold water faucet by allowing the water to run until it has become as cold as it will get. Flushing may prove ineffective in high-rise buildings that have large-diameter supply pipes joined with lead solder. Do not use water taken from the hot tap for cooking or drinking, and especially not for making baby formula. Treat water, then retest. If both results are over the action level, do not use the water for cooking or drinking. Treat water, then retest.

For individual households, acid neutralizers are the most commonly used method of corrosion control. As an alternative, install a point-of-use filter or other device certified for effective lead reduction.