You might think of lead poisoning as something from the 50’s, when lead paint was common. But in reality, lead is still everywhere – maybe even in your drinking water…
The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan has drawn national attention to the problem of lead in drinking water. Many older water pipes in homes throughout America are made of lead, and this can add significantly to your lead exposure, regardless of where your drinking water comes from.
Why is lead so dangerous? First of all, lead is especially problematic for pregnant women, newborn babies, and children. As this article explains, prenatal exposure can lead to infertility, and lead exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and pre-term birth, as well as learning and growth problems for newborns.
In children, lead poisoning can cause brain damage, developmental and growth delays, ADHD, hearing problems, and even seizures and nervous system and kidney damage.
Adults can also experience symptoms from lead exposure, such as high blood pressure, headaches, and changes in mood, behavior, and sleep patterns.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are some tips for avoiding this deadly toxin:
Familiarize yourself with contaminants. Every year, water companies are required to supply you with a Consumer Confidence Report – a water quality report that provides details about contaminants lurking in your well or public water, including lead. The report also provides details on these toxins’ potential health risks. Your water company must provide this report to you by July 1 each year, says Jonathan Yoder, a researcher with the CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch.
“It’s important for people to be aware of where their water comes from, where it’s treated and how to know if it’s safe to use or drink,” Yoder says, adding that concerned consumers should read the report closely. Some water companies will publish the report information through newspapers or other public forums, and all will post it online.
Take advantage of EPA resources. The EPA’s website is packed with information on local drinking water quality reports; plus, the agency runs a Safe Drinking Water Hotline. The hotline – 1-800-426-4791– also provides details about drinking water standards, public drinking water systems, source water protection and residential and commercial septic systems and wells.
Understand that well water is different from city water. City water records are public, and your local health department will make sure it’s healthy to drink. However, the only way to know your well water is safe is by testing it. The EPA recommends testing your well at least once a year for contaminants like lead…. Contact your county health department to set up a well water test. The EPA also recommends the following tips for keeping private wells safe:
- Find problems early and correct them. Don’t wait until a crisis.
- Keep your well water records handy.
- Have a local expert inspect your well construction and records.
- Avoid storing or disposing lawn care chemicals or waste near your well.
- Prevent water runoff by removing surfaces that don’t absorb water, and replace them with drains or grates.
- Get in the habit of checking underground storage tanks that harbor heating oil or gasoline.
“Since you cannot see, taste or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water,” Grevatt says. If you want to test your own water, the EPA hotline can connect you with a local water testing agency. Visit the Water Quality Association’s website to find your state’s testing companies.
Boiling water doesn’t remove lead. Don’t boil water if you think there’s lead in it, Loch-Caruso warns. “We associate drinking water problems with a water boil advisory,” she says. “That’s the wrong thing to do with lead.” Boiling water concentrates the lead that’s remaining in the pot, she explains. What’s more, using hot water from the tap for food preparation or drinking is ill-advised. “Hot water is more effective at leaching lead out of pipes and other fixtures, or the hot water tank,” Loch-Caruso says. If your faucet hasn’t been used in the past six hours, let the water run for one to two minutes before it runs cold for cooking or drinking.
Filters can help. Water filters act as a barrier by removing contaminants such as bacteria, excess nutrients and lead from household water. Make sure to follow the instructions on the water filter package carefully, Loch-Caruso says. She suggests only buying filters certified by organizations like the Water Quality Association or NSF International, nonprofits that develop public health standards and certification programs to protect water supplies. Some filters can remove up to 99 percent of the lead in water when used correctly, according to Michigan’s Flint Water Response Team….
For more information, check out the full article at USNews.com.