While lead has been banned from children’s toys, gasoline, and paint, you may still be exposed to it through tap water. When water is treated, it leaves the treatment plant through large pipes made of iron or concrete. Unfortunately, the water still passes through smaller pipes or service lines that deliver it to homes.
Many of these service lines are made from lead and may be exposing you to contaminated water every single day. It is estimated that millions of service lines are still in use in the United States, with a majority found in older neighborhoods in the Midwest and Northeast. Unfortunately, the replacement of these pipes is being stalled.
Effects of Lead to Humans
Lead is a dangerous toxin, and exposure to it can cause damage to your brain and nervous system. Prolonged exposure can cause reproductive problems in men and women, nerve disorders, hearing and vision impairment, memory and concentration issues, and muscle problems.
While lead poses health threats to adults, its effects on pregnant women and children are more serious, such as miscarriages, premature births, and learning defects and reduced growth in infants. It can also cause comas, seizures, and death in children.
Why Lead Service Lines Still Operate
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required water utility companies to test their lead levels under the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. If levels were elevated, water companies would have to replace their service lines until the lead levels were within the “acceptable” levels.
Unfortunately, water companies contested this and were successful in derailing this plan. The EPA fixed this rule in 2000 to have companies replace their pipes from the water main to a home’s property line. If the rest of the service lines were to be replaced, it would be paid for by the homeowner.
The bad news is replacing lead service lines can cost thousands of dollars, and doing so may not decrease your lead contamination. It may even increase it! Pipe replacements can unload lead fragments that have built up inside the pipe, increasing lead contaminations in water.
How to Reduce Your Lead Exposure
You may not have the resources to have lead pipes replaced, but there are other options. One is to make sure your tap water is filtered. Investing in a whole house water filter system will help filter not only your drinking water but also all water sources in your home.
Make sure that the water filter you use is certified to remove heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and even mercury. It should also be able to remove chlorine and its byproducts. A suggestion would be to use large carbon filters together with whole house water filters – this can remove dangerous amounts of lead along with other contaminants.