You know the feeling, right?
You got a letter from your township or water provider, “unsafe levels of lead detected in your county”.
What do you do?
Lead in water has gained national headlines.
Some of these heavy metals are:
According to Popular Science, small amounts of them are actually necessary.
For example, iron allows red blood cells to bind with oxygen, zinc is vital for enzyme function and copper is needed in enzymatic reactions. In large quantities, they accumulate in your organs and bones. Over time, this is extremely problematic.
Heavy metals are high in density and in large quantities can become toxic and dangerous to your health. Not all heavy metals are created equal and they are not all equally dangerous.
They give a wide range of medical problems such as seizures, brain hemorrhages, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, anemia, muscle aches and other neurological disorders.
Lead in water has been a painful and widespread issue in many parts of the country and it’s especially problematic in small children. In particular, lead interferes with nerve signals and cause a variety of neurological issues.
Although slow to show up, symptoms include confusion, headaches, seizures and long-term neurological development problems.
Lead primarily enters drinking water via plumbing materials containing this element and that are corroded.
In most homes, especially those built before 1986, lead service lines, the pipes that connect the homes water supply to the city’s water supply, are typically the biggest sources of lead in water.
The infamous Flint, MI water crisis reminded us that as long as there are lead pipes in the ground and lead plumbing in your home, the risk of exposure is all too great.
Generally, water is lead-free when it is delivered from the water supply company. However, as soon as it comes into contact with lead-bearing plumbing in your home, the water is contaminated with it.
That’s why not all houses contain lead, even if they’re in the same neighborhood. Lead-bearing plumbing was banned since 1986.
If your home was built before that date, you most probably have lead in your water because your plumbing may be soldered with lead.
The severity of lead in water depends on the specific chemistry of the water in your home. Pipes and fixtures with lead soldering may be highly corroded due to high acidity in water or low mineral content.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of lead also varies depending on:
Lead is not the only heavy metal found in our drinking water. Heavy metals are found as trace elements in our food, water and air. However, at high concentrations they can become poisoning.
Lead in our water is particularly dangerous because, as any other heavy metal, they tend to increase in concentration over time. This process is called bioaccumulation, when these metals accumulate in your body as they are consumed and stored faster that they are broken down or excreted.
Exposure to lead is not only limited to lead piping and plumbosolvent water, but also from lead in air emissions (which are then deposited through dust and rain onto soil and crops), soil, dust, paint flakes in old houses and contaminated land.
Don’t wait to get a letter in the mail.
If your house was built before the 1980’s it most probably has lead-bearing pipes.
Contact us for extra resources. If you live in New Jersey or in the NY metropolitan area, we’ll be happy to test your water at home and offer filtration options.
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American Water Works Association, Lead service analysis examines scope of challenge (PDF)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Basic information about lead in drinking water, www.epa.gov
NYC Environmental Protection, Lead in household plumbing, www1.nyc.gov
Popular Science, Freaking out about heavy metals (PDF)