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Things You Should Know About Lead in U.S. Drinking Water

Lead is a heavy metal and a neurotoxin. When absorbed into the human body over time, lead accumulates in the bones, blood, and tissues. As the level of lead builds up in the body, it may cause a wide range of health problems including cognitive impairment, hypertension, anemia, kidney damage, and problems in pregnancy. At its worst, very high exposure to lead may cause death.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree that lead is particularly harmful to children and fetuses.

This is because children’s bodies absorb more lead more quickly and they are more susceptible to the potential damage lead can cause. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that children may suffer permanent brain damage, behavior problems and stunted growth even when relatively low amounts of lead are introduced into their bodies. The WHO says:

“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems. In particular lead can affect children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behavior and reduced educational attainment.”[1]

How Does Lead Get Into Drinking Water?

Because it is readily available and relatively easy to manipulate, lead has been widely used in plumbing. Its use was extensive before people became aware of the danger it causes. Particularly in buildings constructed prior to 1986, lead was used in faucets, pipes, and the solder used to bind copper pipes.

Over time, water causes corrosion as it flows past these lead-containing components. This corrosion then allows lead to leach into the water.

A number of factors influence how much lead may enter the tap water in any given home or building. These variables include how acidic the water is, what other contaminants the water contains, the temperature of the water, and how corroded the lead-containing pipes and fixtures are.

Lead in water cannot be tasted, seen or smelled. Unless the water is tested, it is impossible to know how much lead it contains. While boiling drinking water will eliminate some contaminants, it will not remove lead.

How Many Americans Are Exposed To Lead In Their Drinking Water?

The crisis in Flint, Michigan, which led to a federal state of emergency in 2016, brought lead and water safety to the center stage in the American media and to the top of the legislative agenda. Inadequate water treatment in Flint may have exposed over 100,000 people to high amounts of lead in their drinking water.

A survey commissioned by the American Water Works Association in 2016 estimated that 15 to 22 million people across the nation live in homes served by pipes containing lead.[2] About 30% of the community water systems surveyed said they have some lead-containing service lines.

Yet, according to the EPA, lead is so potentially harmful that no amount of it can be considered safe in drinking water. This is why the EPA has set the safe amount of lead to zero, and federal laws and measures are in place to attempt to address this problem. Among these are:

  •    The Lead Contamination Control Act.
  •    The Safe Drinking Water Act.
  •    The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act.
  •    CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

As part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule requires utility companies to take measures to control how corrosive their water is to lead pipes.

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?

Utility companies’ corrosion control is not a failsafe solution to the problem of lead in drinking water. In addition to the laws in place, the EPA advises people to take their own measures to limit their exposure to lead. These important steps include using only cold water for drinking and cooking.

Lead levels accumulate the longer water sits in pipes. If you have not used your tap water for a while, the EPA also advocates flushing out the water by running the taps for a few minutes, taking a shower, or doing a load of laundry. If possible, lead-containing service lines should be replaced altogether.

Guaranteed Lead-Free Drinking Water

One surefire way of cutting down your lead exposure is to drink water from a guaranteed lead-free source. Le Bleu produces award-winning bottled water, completely pure and free from lead and other contaminants. We supply water, coffee, and tea direct to homes and offices.

Find out more about Le Bleu’s range of hyper-pure water on