Is My Water Contaminated by Lead?

September 1, 2016
Is My Water Contaminated by Lead?

Thanks mostly to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Americans have begun raising important questions about the safety of municipal water supplies in their respective communities. Unfortunately, many of these questions have drawn disturbing answers about the actual prevalence of lead contamination in the U.S.
How Common Is Lead Contamination?
According to a recent report from CNN, at least 5,300 U.S. water systems are in violation of EPA lead rules, with as many as eighteen million Americans at risk of health problems related to contamination. Most of the contamination appears to result from corroding lead pipes, which were placed decades before health experts recognized the harmful impact of lead poisoning.
Understanding the Risk
Lead "bio-accumulates" in the body, meaning it builds up over time. This makes ongoing exposure extremely dangerous, especially for the very young. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems, including memory loss, joint pain, fatigue, hearing loss, miscarriage and more. For children, the risk is especially high, with many experiencing developmental delays, learning difficulties and slowed growth.
According to the EPA, you cannot absorb lead through the skin. That said, the EPA acknowledges that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood, meaning you shouldn't drink or cook with contaminated water.
Is there Lead in my Water?
Due to America's aging infrastructure, it may take decades before every community is able to replace enough lead pipes to eliminate the threat of lead contamination in all drinking water. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Start by calling your municipal water supplier and asking for their Consumer Confidence Report. In this, you will find a list contaminants found during annual tests, which are required by federal law. You may also be able to find this information online at the EPA's website. Some home improvement stores also sell at-home lead tests, which are especially useful if you suspect there could be lead in your home's plumbing.
If your water tests positive for lead, the CDC recommends that you run your shower or another high-volume tap for five minutes on cold before using any water in your home. You can find other tips on coping with potential lead contamination at the CDC's website.

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