After high amounts of lead were found in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and many more American cities, the health crisis became well known. However, it does not take large amounts of lead to cause health problems. Across America, water systems could be polluted with the metal without making national news.
Lead in water is a common problem in America, and it isn’t going away. Which is a big problem, because lead can cause a lot of health problems in just about every body system, with particular concern in babies, kids and pregnant women.
So, how do you test your tap water for lead? If you find lead, how do you get lead out of water that you drink and cook with?
There are easy solutions to get lead out of water. But first you’ve got to understand that you do NEED to worry about lead levels in your water.
Shocking Lead Levels In America’s Water Supply
Approximately 186 million people in the United States have drinking water systems with lead levels more than 1 part per billion (ppl), according to the National Resources Defense Council. That is 56% of the American population!
One part per billion is the recommended limit by the American Academy of Pediatrics to protect children from lead in school water fountains.
The NRDC analysis also found that:
More than 61 million Americans have drinking water systems with lead levels that exceeded the limit of 5 ppb set by the Food and Drug Administration for bottled water.
Seven million people were served by water systems that exceeded the EPA’s Lead Action Level of 15 ppb—a level that is supposed to trigger additional actions by water systems to reduce their lead levels.
The report goes on to state that:
EPA audits of the data we used to develop these estimates found that states failed to report 92 percent of Lead and Copper Rule health-based violations to the EPA.
Does Filtering Water Remove Lead?
Yes, you can buy inexpensive carbon filters, or more expensive reverse osmosis or distillation treatment methods to remove lead, according to the CDC. If you are using a pitcher filter, keep in mind that many do not filter out lead.
When choosing a water filter, look for one certified for at least 99% lead removal. Look for these qualifications from these trusted, third-party certifiers:
Among the least expensive pitcher filters on the NSF International Certified Products page are:
I have tried both of these brands of water filters. Reviews and video are located below.
Can You Boil Lead Out of Water?
No. In fact, boiling could cause the amount of lead to slightly increase. As water evaporates while boiling, the lead is not removed but becomes more concentrated by volume if there is less water but the same amount of lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
How to Get Lead Out of Well Water
If your water supply comes from a well, you may need to pay for testing on your own to determine if there is a problem. Wells that are over 20 years old could have lead exposure from the “packer” element that is used to help seal the well above the well screen, according to the CDC.
Older submersible pumps could also contain leaded-brass components. To know for sure, you will need to work with a licensed well water contractor who can inspect the parts and help you navigate the process of testing your private well water for lead.
How to Test for Lead in Water
Community Water Systems that test their water (which is law) MUST give you a drinking water quality report by July 1 of each year. It is called a Consumer Confidence Report and you are allowed to request it. Often, these drinking water quality reports are included in your mail, with your water bill or another mailing. If not, you can always access it online or call and ask for a copy.
The annual testing is just one part of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It offers legal limits of contaminants in public water systems. However, if you’re on a well water system or in a really tiny town, the burden of testing your water lies on you.
Want to test on your own water? Inquire with your local health department. Some have services to help you test your water for lead.
Water Quality Test Kits
There are easy test kits to do at home that you can order off of Amazon to test your water for lead, such as Safe Home ULTIMATE Drinking Water Test Kit.
I did the Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit which test for over 200 contaminants. The test kit was super easy to do. All you have to do is fill vials with water and send it off in the postage-paid box.
The test results will be emailed to you and are easy to read.
Doing the Safe Home Water Test Kit eased my mind and relieved worries about lead in my water. I found out that I do not have to worry about the lead level in my water. In fact, the test said that lead was not detected in our water.
There are some other contaminants that I would like to address. However, this water was tested straight out of the tap without any water filter. So it would be interesting to do the same test again with filtered water, and see what the results say.
See my water quality test results, and how easy it was to do the Safe Home Water Test Kit, in my video:
How Does Lead Get Into Your Drinking Water?
There are several ways that lead can get into your tap water in your home.
Water Treatment Facility
First, lead pipes could be used in the water treatment facility from which you get your home’s water. If it is contaminated there, it is coming into your home.
Your Home’s Plumbing
Lead pipes and lead soldering could be adding lead to your drinking water. Homes built before 1986, the year when new legal requirements for lead-containing pipes were put into place, are at highest risk for still having lead pipes.
“Lead-free” pipes could still contain up to 8% lead for construction between 1986 and 2014, thanks to a legal loophole. So you might still be at risk even in a newer home.
Lead Service Lines
Lead service lines – which carry water between the facility and your home – might still be a cause of lead contamination, too. An estimated 6-10 million people could still be at risk thanks to old lead lines that have never been replaced, according to the Journal of American Waterworks Association in 2016.
Acidity and Mineral Content
If the water in your area is high in acidity, or low in minerals, it can actually be corrosive in pipes, increasing the likelihood of lead leaching out into your water.
How to Get Lead Out of Water
Whether you know that there is lead in your water – or you just want to be super safe – there are ways to get lead out of water.
If lead is in your water due to lead pipes and solderings, replacing your pipes is the best answer to reducing lead levels.
For those of us who are not testing for high levels of lead, or who have not tested but want to have an extra layer of protection – then a water filter is ideal for you to get lead out of water.
You are going to need a filter to get lead out of water. Lead will not be removed unless you use a physical product to remove it.
Keep in mind, not all water filters will remove lead. It is a very specific task, and you need to read labels carefully to see if your water filter offers lead removal.
ZeroWater Water Filters
I have been using ZeroWater pitcher filters for many years. I have tested the 6-cup water pitcher in our RV, where I was definitely concerned about being able to filter contaminants out of public water supplies that were different every place we went. While RV water filters can get out some contaminants, they are definitely not as good as many home systems, so I brought a ZeroWater pitcher to filter the water out of our tap.
I have also used the 12-cup ZeroWater pitcher in our home, before quickly buying an additional 30-cup water pitcher because we go through fresh, filtered cold water quickly in my house.
ZeroWater is NSF Certified for the reduction of lead with it’s five step filtration process (many other pitchers only use two steps to filter water). Each pitcher also comes with a water testing gadget so that you can see how many Total Dissolved Solids are in your drinking water, whether from your tap or after being filtered by ZeroWater.
I was shocked by how well ZeroWater worked to get read of lead and particulates in the water that I was drinking. ZeroWater pitcher filter systems remove 99.6% of all dissolved solids, which includes lead.
This video shows my actual solid levels in my water, both with an existing water filter in the refrigerator, normal tap water that hasn’t been filtered, and water filtered with ZeroWater. I think you’ll agree, this is impressive!
I find that my ZeroWater filters last a couple months or more in our household. We use the water pitchers ALL the time, though, so that’s with extensive use.
Lifestraw Water Filters
The company that makes the popular water purifiers for emergency prepping and outdoor use also makes a few products for home water filtering. Keep in mind that the in-home items are not considered purifiers, as they do not remove viruses, unlike the personal water purifier sticks.
I found that Lifestraw water pitchers did work well. However, you have to replace the filters in them a lot! And that can get expensive.
Watch my video review for the frustrations I found with Lifestraw, as far as their design of the pitcher:
Can Lead in Water Make You Sick?
Even though lead is a naturally occurring metal, is isn’t good for humans, especially babies, young children (6 years of age or less) and pregnant women. Lead can affect your nervous system and brain. According to the EPA (see their resource), lead exposure can result in:
- Drops in IQ
- Mood swings
- Behavior and learning problems
- Slowed growth
- Reproductive problems
For adults, lead has been linked to kidney problems and high blood pressure. Which is why the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations are so strict for lead in public water systems.
The problem is, lead is a bio-accumulative. That means, lead doesn’t pass out of your body. If it is in your water, its s not like Vitamin C where you will pee it out after digesting it. Lead will continue to build up in your body, especially in your bones.
How to Reduce Lead in Water
Removing lead is always the number one goal.
But if you reduce the amount of lead in water that needs to be filtered out, it’s always a winning situation. Here are more tips of how to get lead out of water:
- If you have got an old home, or are worried about the pipes bringing water into your home, you will want to only use cold tap water to fill your pitcher with a water filter or pots to boil.
- Water that has been sitting in your fixtures and pipes overnight, or during the day, can accumulate lead from the pipes and fittings. Flush out the water by running your tap until the water temperature changes from lukewarm to cold.
- Also, never use hot water straight from the tap to jump start boiling pots of water. Getting the water that hot from the tap can also leach lead out faster. Use only cold water, and then heat to the desired temperature.
Items in your home can contain lead, too. Here’s how to get inexpensive lead test kits for furniture, toys, etc.
And be sure to see my list of the Top 10 Brands for Lead-Free lipstick.