Health Effects of Lead

Health Effects of Lead

High levels of lead in tap water can cause health effects if the lead in the water enters the bloodstream and causes an elevated blood lead level. Infants and children are most at risk. Children who drink water containing lead in excess of 15 parts per billion could experience delays in their physical or mental development and show deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink lead contaminated water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.

It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. If the level of lead in a child's blood is elevated, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40% to 60% of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

More information from the Environmental Protection Agency can be found online.

Minimizing Lead Exposure in Drinking Water

There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from lead in tap water, regardless of whether you have a lead service line. Running cold water from the faucets you use for drinking can improve water quality by drawing fresh water into the home, particularly after long periods of time when water has not been used. The most important time to flush is after long periods of no use, such as first thing in the morning, after work, or upon returning from vacation.

If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run water from your kitchen tap or whatever tap you use for drinking and cooking for at least 3 minutes and it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This will help flush lead-containing water from the pipes. In order to conserve water, you can fill multiple containers after flushing for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula.

To further conserve water, other household water usage activities such as showering, washing clothes, flushing the toilet and running the dishwasher are effective methods for flushing pipes and allowing water from the distribution system to enter household pipes.

Steps You Can Take to Minimize Lead Exposure in Drinking Water

  • Use cold water for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water faucet; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water faucet to make baby formula.
  • Clean and remove any debris from faucet aerators on a regular basis.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Test your water for lead. Call us at 630-260-2090 to find out how to get your water tested for lead.
  • Look for alternative sources or treatment of water. You may want to consider purchasing bottled water or a water filter that is certified to remove “total lead.”
  • Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free” may contribute lead to drinking water. As of January 4, 2014, plumbing materials must be certified as “lead-free” to be used, with no more than 0.25% lead. Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions. Visit the NSF website to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.