How to Remove Lead from Water?

Lead exposure to children is dangerous

Removing Lead from Water

The Flint, Michigan water crisis exposed the dangers of lead in drinking water. Still, lead pipe usage is widespread, and excessive levels of lead are found in public water supplies in all 50 states, affecting 22 million people or more.

How Does Lead Get Into Drinking Water?

When the pipes carrying water to homes, schools, and care centers begin to corrode, lead can enter our drinking water. Water that has high acidity or low mineral content is especially corrosive to fixtures and pipes.lead-in-water-corrosion-pipes

Today, most pipes are made of copper, but because many homes built before 1986 still have lead solder connecting their copper pipes, the risk of lead in water is high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that an estimaged 9.2 million lead service lines connect municipal water plants to homes and businesses in the U.S.

Even in brand new homes, the pipes carrying water may bring lead-polluted water to a household.

As many as 12 million lead pipes carry drinking water to the homes of 22 million or more people in the U.S.

How to Remove Lead from Water

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests two ways to remove lead in water:

Reverse Osmosis or Distillation.

  1. Reverse osmosis is a simple and economical way to protect your household from lead contamination in water. Reverse Osmosis can remove 99.1% of lead in water and can remove dozens of other contaminants.
  2. Distillation is a very slow process and requires a lot of energy from a heat source, so it's not the optimal process.

During the reverse osmosis water treatment process, household water pressure pushes water through a series of filters. The membrane in the reverse osmosis system will filter out contaminants, including removing lead from water. Through the RO filtration process, impurities flush away, leaving you with filtered, clean drinking water.

Reverse Osmosis is a highly effective purification process, has a low production cost (only pennies per gallon), consumes no energy, and is easy to clean and maintain. To learn more about how reverse osmosis works, go to our Understanding Reverse Osmosis page.

Does Boiling Water Remove Lead?

Boiling your water will not remove lead. In fact, if water contains lead, then boiling the water can increase the concentration of lead in your water. This is because as water evaporates during the boiling process, the ratio of lead to water is greater than when started.

To successfully remove lead from water, the CDC site states, "You may wish to consider water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, distillation, and carbon filters specially designed to remove lead.”

These 3 filter systems can successfully remove up to 99.1% of lead in your water

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Can Lead in Water Make You Sick?

According to the EPA, lead poses a serious health threat, especially for pregnantepa sources of lead in drinking water women, infants and young children. For example, lead exposure has been linked to the following issues in children:

    • delays in physical development
    • behavioral problems
    • damage growing brains

And when it comes to the health effects of lead in water, adults are also at risk. There is evidence linking lead exposure to kidney problems, high blood pressure and increased risks of cardiovascular deaths.

Is Lead Dangerous for Children?

Lead exposure can cause irreversible harm to children. According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. In fact, low levels of lead exposure in children have been shown to damage the nervous system and brain, causing hearing impairments, learning disabilities and harm to blood cells.

Does Running Water Reduce Lead?

Yes! If water has been sitting unused in pipes for six or more hours, the CDC recommends that you run water for 1-2 minutes. The longer water has been sitting in pipes, the higher the risk of lead in water. Flushing your pipes can waste water, so you may consider taking a shower to flush out your pipes. You may ask, "Is it OK to shower in water that contains lead?" Yes, human skin does not absorb lead in water, so shower or clean while flushing the pipes.

Water temperature matters! Hot water dissolves and corrodes lead more than cold water does, so when getting water from the tap for drinking or cooking, acquire water from the “COLD” side, and then heat up the water yourself to reduce the potential for lead contamination. “

Do not use hot tap water to make cereals, drinks or mix baby formula. You may draw cold water after flushing the tap and then heat it if needed" (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


How to Test for Lead in Your Water

If you're wondering if you have lead pipes in your house, the EPA provides a guide to help determine if lead service lines bring water to your home.

Some states and/or utility companies provide residents with a program to pay for water testing and service line replacment. Testing should be done by a certified laboratory.

The EPA requires all community water suppliers to prepare and deliver an annual water quality report for their customers by July 1 of each year. To find your local Consumer Confidence Report, visit the EPA website.

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a "Lead Check" quiz for your home. You'll simply need a penny (or key) and a magnet.

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