After high amounts of lead were found in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and many more American cities, you might be wondering how to get lead out of water.
You should be.
Lead in water is a common problem in America. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Which is a big problem, because lead can cause a lot of health problems, with particular concern in kids.
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.
*This post has been updated July 2018
Lead Levels In Water
Lead in drinking water is nothing new, it just happens that the Flint crisis made news many years ago. In fact, more than 18 million Americans got their drinking water from systems with lead violations in 2015, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report.
The report found more than 18 million people were served by 5,363 community water systems that violated the Lead and Copper rule.
Why Is Lead Bad?
What is so wrong with having lead in your water?
First of all, even though lead is a naturally occurring metal, is isn’t good for humans – especially children. Lead can affect your nervous system and brain. Lead exposure can result in:
- Drops in IQ
- Mood swings
- Behavior and learning problems
- Slowed growth
- Reproductive problems
- Other physical problems caused by lead
The problem is, lead is a bio-accumulative. That means, lead doesn’t pass out of your body. If it’s in your water, it’s not like Vitamin C where you’ll pee it out after digesting it.
Lead will build up in your body, especially in your bones.
Are You at Risk?
Should you bother testing for lead in your 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
If your treatment facility is lead-free, your home’s plumbing might be the cause. Lead pipes and lead soldering could be adding lead to your drinking water.
“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.
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? You can use a state-certified laboratory to test water for lead. Use this list from the EPA.
Also, inquire with your local health department. Some have services to help you test your water for lead.
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
When ZeroWater first asked me if I’d like to try out their products which get lead out of water at home, I definitely was interested. It’s a big concern of mine, especially living in a rental home and unable to control the plumbing in the house.
I tried out a ZeroWater Stainless Steel pitcher many years ago. That’s what these pictures below and video are from.
After we started RVing, I bought their 6-cup pitcher (the only one that would fit in an RV refrigerator), which was the perfect way to get lead out of water (and other nasty stuff) when using municipal water supplies all across the country.
When we moved into our current rental home, I knew I needed a water filtration system so we bought the 12-cup ZeroWater pitcher. But we go through fresh, filtered cold water so much in my house that we definitely could have used a bigger water filter pitcher. So when ZeroWater recently asked if I wanted to try the 30-cup water pitcher, I definitely said yes! (Now I just need their 40-cup countertop filtration model and the super cool water cooler bottle and I think I’ve tried everything!)
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.
There’s also a search feature on ZeroWater’s website where you can see what the water quality is like where you live.
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.
The spigot is nice to use. It means you can pout water out of the spout even if water is being filtered through the reservoir under the lid.
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.