Lead enters household water when materials used in plumbing systems corrode. In Oregon and Washington, the most common source of lead in drinking water is from the solder used to join copper pipes. There are simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.
Copper pipes and lead solder were commonly used in plumbing before 1985. Lead solder was banned that year. If your home was plumbed before then, it may have lead solder. Some older faucets and brass plumbing fixtures may also contain lead.
Lead is toxic and especially harmful to children. Even low levels of exposure can damage a child’s nervous system, health and ability to grow.
Here’s what you can do if you’re worried about lead in your home’s water.
Test for Lead in Drinking Water
Washington residents can test water at a number of certified labs. Find out where to get your water tested by contacting the Washington State Department of Health Division of Drinking Water 1(800) 521-0323. Tests generally cost under $40.
Flush the Pipes
Lead exposed to corrosive water may dissolve and accumulate in pipes. This can happen when water stands in systems containing lead. If it’s been several hours since water has been used, run the tap for up to 2 minutes. Do this first thing in the morning and after returning from work or school.
Drink and Cook With Cold Water
Use only fresh, cold water for drinking and cooking. Lead dissolves more readily in hot water. Don’t use water from the hot water tap for drinking or cooking. Boiling water will not remove lead.
Install a Filter
Some filters remove lead. Before choosing a filter, check the label to see what substances it removes. Models range from simple pitchers to whole-house systems. Find out more about how to choose a filter at NSF International.
Keep Your Faucet Aerator Clean
Clean the aerator in your faucet every few months. The aerator accumulates particles. If your pipes contain lead solder, particles can lodge in the aerator.
Install Low-Lead Fixtures
All plumbing fixtures manufactured after January 4, 2014 are required to contain less than .25 percent lead. If your faucets or fixtures are older, consider installing new ones with a low-lead content.
Do You Need a Blood Test for Lead?
A blood test for lead level will show if you’ve been exposed. Speak with a physician to determine if you need this test.
It’s important to note that the source water for Vancouver, Washington does not contain lead. The city’s water utilities have taken steps to make public plumbing systems safe. Other sources, such as old paint in homes built before 1978, are a more common hazard than is water.
Simpson Plumbing repairs, remodels and installs plumbing systems. Contact us at 503-313-4827 if it’s time to upgrade your home’s plumbing.