Lead and WaterContamination
There has been a lot of news about Lead recently. It’s the one contaminant that everyone is talking about. There was a time however, when Lead was seen as a good thing. In the 1930s, engineers and chemists began to praise Lead for its versatility and affordability. Production took off. It was used to make batteries, organ pipes, paint, gasoline, and most importantly, pipes and solder for water infrastructure. But as doctors began to link negative health effects to Lead exposure, the excitement quickly wore off. The U.S. stopped using Lead pipes in the late 1930s but continued to use Lead solder to hold copper pipes together until the 1980s.
According to the EPA, investments needed to repair the nation’s aging water infrastructure total over $384.2 billion over the next 20 years.
Lead contamination can happen anywhere. Homes built before and during the 1980s most likely contain Lead pipes and solder. Newer homes can also be at risk for Lead because of old water lines under the street that feed into your home. Water systems are being flagged, but high repair costs are preventing them from being replaced. American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s drinking water a grade “D.” According to the EPA, investments needed to repair the nation’s aging water infrastructure total over $384.2 billion over the next 20 years.
There are measures in place to protect consumers. According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA must determine maximum contaminant level goals (MCLGs) for contaminants. The MCLG for Lead is zero, but that is just a goal, not a regulation. Lead is regulated through the Lead and Copper Rule, which requires water treatment facilities to regularly test lead in certain homes and if more than 10% of those homes exceed the 15 ppb threshold, action is taken at the treatment facility. The facility uses a technique that controls or changes the corrosivity of the water. EPA’s enforcement program which includes the Department of Justice, tribal governments and law enforcement, is not required to take action unless facilities exceed the 10% action level and do not abate the lead levels.
There are an estimated 3.3 to 10 million Lead service lines still in use across the country today. And depending on the chemistry of the water, lead can leach into the water before it reaches your faucet.
Lead is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and pregnant women. Exposure has been linked to delays in physical and mental development including lowered IQs and damage to the nervous system, making it important to filter out Lead not just in the home, but in schools, daycares, and even nursing homes as well.