Lead is a common metal which has been used over the years in many consumer products. It can still be found in lead-based paint, some imported consumer products, and, under some conditions in air, soil, household dust, pottery, food, plumbing pipes and components, and drinking water. If it is inhaled or swallowed, lead can build up in the body over time. If too much lead enters the body, it can damage the brain, nervous system, red blood cells, and kidneys. Lead in drinking water can be a particular problem for infants who drink formula made with tap water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also need to be concerned about lead levels in drinking water since it can be passed on to unborn children and breast-fed babies.
Let it Run...Get the Lead Out!
Lead works its way into the water by dissolving from components in the household plumbing. The the longer the water has stood idle in the pipes, the more lead or copper is it likely to have absorbed.
The simplest method to reduce lead exposure from drinking water is to turn on the cold water tap each morning, and let it run for a minute or two, until the water gets cold. This will "flush" the water that is standing in the plumbing pipes and components. You should do this for all faucets used for drinking and cooking. Flushing will remove much of the lead that may have dissolved into the water overnight. Flush the system any time the water has not been used for six hours or longer. After an extended absence, such as a vacation, flush the system for twice as long as you normally do.
In addition, hot water dissolves lead more quickly than cold water; as a result, water to be used for drinking or cooking should not be drawn from the hot water tap. If you need hot water for cooking or drinking, take water from the cold tap and heat it. It is especially important not to use hot tap water for making baby formula.
Sources of Lead Contamination
Lead exists throughout our physical environment. We are exposed to very small amounts each day, usually with no bad health effects. Groundwater in Minnesota usually does not contain detectable levels of lead. However, the pipes and other components (such as faucets, valves, or fittings) in household plumbing may contain lead. If they do, lead may dissolve into the water. The longer the water stands idle in the plumbing pipes and components, the more lead that can dissolve into the water.
When to test for Lead