Everything You Need to Know About Lead in Water


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The events in Flint, Michigan have left us all a bit shaken. Contaminated water, just one state away, simply hits too close to home. Pile on the news reports addressing lead in water and one can not help but wonder, could there be issues with my water?

There is no determined acceptable level of lead, especially in children. Lead comes with the added danger of bioaccumulation, meaning, it will persist in your body and build up over time. The effects are numerous and range from minor symptoms to major lifelong ailments, including:

  • disruptions to the nervous system
  • cognitive disabilities
  • growth impairment
  • hearing difficulties
  • malformed and/ or dysfunctional blood cells
  • lower IQ
  • hyperactivity
  • anemia
  • problems with pregnancy
  • hypertension
  • kidney issues
  • reduced fertility
  • abdomen pain
  • joint pain
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • colic
  • headache
  • sleep issues
  • memory loss

*This, of course, is not an all-inclusive list and the existence of one is certainly not proof of exposure to lead. If you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult a physician. The intention of this list is to express the serious nature of lead in your water.*

 

copper pipes lead soldering

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The source of lead in water can usually be traced back to the interior infrastructure of a given building or home. Specifically, it is more likely to occur in commercial settings or homes that were built before 1986. These homes are equipped with lead soldered pipes that are vulnerable to corrosion and the release of eroded natural elements. The nature of the water itself is also an important element to consider. If a given water supply is highly acidic and low in mineral content it is more likely to reek havoc on pipes. Water suppliers have addressed this concern by treating their source water with additives reducing its acidity.

Luckily, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency working in accord with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, has provided an excellent source to pinpoint lead and other contaminated water sources in our state. On their website, you can find an up to date, interactive map outlining areas of concern. In addition, they have named the contaminate specifically and name a recommendation for affected residents.

That is the good news, here comes the bad news…there are currently 62 advisories in Ohio and shockingly almost half of them advocate the use of a water filter or bottled water in lieu of the tap. In addition, 8 areas were stricken with a lead contamination. The complete list of contaminants and the number of areas affected are as follows:

  • 19 Fluoride
  • 15 Trihalomethane (an environmental pollutant, considered carcinogenic, used in solvents and refrigerants)
  • 8 Lead
  • 2 Coliform/ E Coli
  • 1 Arsenic
  • 1 Haloacetic Acid (a byproduct of chlorination)
  • 1 Nitrate
  • 1 Voluntary conservation effort

In concert with our current topic, the following counties have a lead alert within their borders (keep in mind that this does not mean the entire county is affected, as we mentioned previously, the source of the lead is usually in-house):

  • Clark
  • Geauga
  • Logan
  • Madison
  • Richland
  • Stark
  • Wood

There are a few steps you can take to assure that your water is safe to drink and free of contaminants, especially lead. First and foremost, contact your water utility for their current water quality report. Every water supplier is required to have this analysis performed yearly by a third party lab. Next, have your own water tested, especially if your structure was built before 1986. Aside from testing, it is always a good idea to flush your pipes before drinking. Simply, let the cold water (never use hot water for consumption) run for a few seconds before filling your glass, pot or pitcher. Keep in mind that boiling water is not effective in the case of lead.

 

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With all that said, if you are still unsure, use a water filter or bottled water instead. Water filters are suitable for removing lead and for that matter a myriad of other contaminants. Bottled water is not exposed to lead soldered infrastructure eliminating the concern. There is no fail-proof method but, in the case of lead water, filters or bottled water are an excellent way to ease your worry.

More about water filters here:>>

Additional resources:

Thank you to the following sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trihalomethane

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haloacetic_acids

https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water#getinto

http://chagrin-falls.org/2016/02/09/water-quality-in-chagrin-falls/

http://epa.ohio.gov/ddagw/pws/advisory_map.aspx