Lead is a naturally occurring element present
in the earth's crust. It has received attention over the years as
a contaminant in drinking water for good reason. The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) calls it, "a highly
toxic metal the agency considers a major public health
threat" (1). It can cause damage to both adults and
children, although in children the effects tend to be greater
(i.e. mental retardation, kidney damage, delayed development,
etc.). Lead leaches into driniking water from lead containing
plumbing fixtures, pipes, and solder.. If you are concerned about
possible lead contamination in your drinking water, there are a
few steps that you can take to lower the amount of lead present
- Flush your cold water pipes if the water
in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or
longer. If there has been high water activity at a
different fixture, your pipes only need to be flushed
from 5-30 seconds, or until your water reaches its
coldest point. If there has been little water activity,
then the water may need to be flushed for two minutes or
longer. Basically, the more time that the water is
sitting in your pipes, the greater the chance that lead
has leached in. Each faucet in the house must be flushed
individually. Flushing the water in your bathroom sink
will not effect the water in your kitchen.
Another option is to use only water from the
cold water tap for drinking, cooking and for making baby
formula. Hot water from the tap may contain a greater
amount of lead, since heat increases the rate at which
lead leaches from your pipes.
You may wish to use bottled water for
cooking and drinking. Bottled water is regulated for lead by the U.S. Food and Drug
A U.S. EPA drinking water standard exists for
lead, with an MCL of 15 ppb; monitoring for this
level began in 1992 (1). Additional information about lead can be
found at the following sites.
- For a general overview of what lead is and the top 12
states where lead in the drinking water is an issue, the EPA's
Drinking Water and Health page should be useful.
- If you have questions about lead
from submersible pumps used in wells, both public and
private, this site at Extoxnet is for you.
- If you would like to know more about lead in general,
including health effects and exposure, these sites at University
of Georgia, Purdue
Cooperative Extension Service, and the Water
Quality Association should be able to help you out.
- For questions about where
the lead is coming from, this site at the Purdue
Cooperative Extension Service can address your concerns.
- If you would like to know more about the
regulations regarding lead, this site at the Purdue
Cooperative Extension Service may help you.
- And if you are looking for ways to reduce your lead
exposure, the University
of Georgia and the Purdue
Cooperative Extension Service sites can provide some
- Information about lead
in drinking water - published by North Carolina
Cooperative Extension Service.
- "Reducing Lead Levels in Drinking
Water", Water Review Technical Brief (1991). Volume
6, Number 2; A publication of the Water Quality Research
Council, in Association with the Water Quality
Association, Lisle, Il. URL:
- "Lead and your Drinking Water",
April, 1987. Office of Water, United States Environmental
Protection Agency, Washington D.C. URL:
- Lead Regulations and Policy, Wetnet: Water
Resources Education. Purdue Cooperative Extension
Service, Purdue University. URL:
- Dorman, Dale. July 1994. Your Drinking
Water: Lead. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension
This page was prepared by S.L. Keyser, June
1997, UCD EXTOXNET FAQ Team.
Revised by B.T. Johnson, October 1997