Lead in Drinking Water
While revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act over the years have significantly changed the lead requirements for materials used in residential plumbing, older fixtures and lead water lines are still in service in many communities, and they can potentially contribute lead into a home’s drinking water supply.
Sources of Lead
If you live in an older home, check to see if a lead service line connects your home to the public water system. The local water department can usually inspect the line coming into the home or check its records to confirm if the home is connected to the water system by a lead service line.
Homes that don't have a lead service line can still have unsafe levels of lead in the water supply as older faucets and lead-based solder can also contribute small amounts of lead into drinking water. Water testing can help determine if a home’s lead content is below the U.S. federal limit of 0.015 mg/L. If lead concentrations exceed this level, options include having the lead service line replaced, using a home water treatment product certified for lead reduction or using certified bottled water.
Home Water Treatment Options
While replacing lead service lines and old fixtures may be desirable, it isn't always possible. Depending on the lead levels being detected, home water treatment devices may be a practical alternative. Options include filters, reverse osmosis units and distillers. Make sure the system is certified for lead reduction, which means that it has been independently verified to be able to reduce lead from 0.150 mg/L to 0.010 mg/L or less.
Since a low pH in private wells can also cause lead leaching, an acid neutralizing system may be needed to correct the situation. These systems add a chemical to the water to boost the pH to above 7.0. These systems can also help to reduce copper leaching that is attributable to low pH.
Most water treatment systems have replaceable components, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions for any water treatment system.
By proper selection, use and maintenance, home water treatment systems can help reduce contaminants such as lead from your incoming drinking water supply.
New Lead Content Laws
In 2010, California and Vermont began requiring that all plumbing fixtures contain less than 0.25 percent average lead content by weight. In 2014, this will become a national requirement across the U.S.
Many faucets and other plumbing fixtures already comply with these requirements, so when shopping for these items, read the label to verify that the product is certified for low lead content.