According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lead poisoning accounts for more than 143,000 deaths each year, with a good number of those poisonings tied directly to the water supply. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims that nearly 40 million Americans face possible health risks due to contaminated drinking water. Lead in drinking water is problematic-here’s what you need to know in order to protect yourself.
Dangers of Lead in Drinking Water
The EPA limits the amount of lead in drinking water to no more than 15 micrograms per liter. However, it can be dangerous even in miniscule amounts, which is why the EPA’s goal is no lead in the water supply. Even small amounts can attribute to adverse health effects, which are more pronounced in young children. Some effects that might be noticed among kids include:
- A slower growth rate
- Learning disabilities
- Central nervous system damage
- Hearing impairment
- Behavioral problems
Especially Dangerous to Pregnant Women
Lead has a tendency to accumulate in the bones, where it can then be stored for an indefinite period. Upon becoming pregnant, lead may be released from a woman’s bones and later used to create the bones of her child. It is also capable of crossing the placental barrier, where it can pose a threat to a developing fetus. Women who are exposed to lead during pregnancy are at an increased risk of premature birth, and are also more likely to deliver smaller babies.
Effects on Adults
Adults are also at risk, and may suffer the following health effects as a result of exposure:
- High blood pressure
- Reproductive disorders
- Decreased kidney function
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
How does Lead get into Drinking Water?
At one time, the majority of pipes and plumbing fixtures contained some form of lead. Over time, corrosion can cause chemicals from these fixtures to leach into the water supply. Your home is more likely to contain lead pipes if it was built before 1965. A private well may also become contaminated if lead from the ground is allowed to seep into it.
Lead in drinking water cannot be detected by sight, taste, or smell. As such, the only way to know whether or not your tap water contains lead is to have your supply tested.
Addressing Lead in the Water Supply
If lead is present in your water supply, you should attempt to replace your older pipes with newer, PVC ones. This might not be possible if all of your pipes are lead, in which case you should at least consider replacing any that show signs of corrosion. Even that might not be enough if the pipes owned by your water company (the ones that run directly to your meter) are made from lead. In that case, you should make it a point to “flush” out any lead by allowing your faucet to run for at least two minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.
If your water contains lead, you should not boil it prior to use. Boiling will not remove the dangers and will only increase the concentration of this substance. Hot water also dissolves minerals and chemicals easier than cold water does, making it more likely that there will be small particles that are easily absorbable.
One thing you can do to protect yourself from lead both now and in the future is to install a water softener. The right water softener can eliminate lead and other contaminants, leaving you with safe, crystal clear water that not only tastes great, but is also good for you. To find the right water softener to fit your needs, please contact us.