Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is all around us. It was used for many years in paints, plumbing and other products found in and around our homes and is found throughout our environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain, pewter, and some plumbing lines and fixtures.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that lead can cause health problems if it accumulates in your body.
The most common source of lead is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead can also present a health concern if it is present in drinking water.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines high-risk (Tier 1) homes as follows:
- Homes with a lead service line that connects the water main (located under the street) to your home’s internal plumbing.
- Homes with copper pipe and lead solder installed between 1982 and 1987.
Homes that do not fall within these two categories are at lower risk for lead contamination in the water.
In 1986, Congress enacted the “lead ban,” which stated that not only public water systems, but anyone else that intends to install or repair drinking water plumbing connected to a public water system must use “lead free materials.” As a result, homes built in or after 1988 are far less likely to have lead solder.
Get the lead out
Here are some ways to reduce your exposure to lead if you think it's present in your tap water:
- When water has been standing in your pipes, run the cold-water tap until it gets noticeably colder. The lower temperature indicates you have cleared water that has been standing in pipes. (To conserve water, remember to catch the flushed tap water for plants or some other household use.)
- Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking and especially for making baby formula. Hot tap water dissolves lead faster and is likely to contain higher levels of lead if present.
- Insist on lead-free solder and lead-free fixtures when repairing or replacing plumbing.
Have your water tested
If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead, you may want to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Laboratory Services Division maintains a list of state-certified labs and instructions on how to collect water samples. Please contact labs directly for information about cost and sampling bottles.
Home treatment devices
Lead is not found in Denver’s source water or public water system, but if you live in a high-risk home, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. You may consider investing in a home water treatment device, or water filter.
Many home treatment devices feature a certification by NSF International, a not-for-profit, independent organization that tests home treatment devices. While not a guarantee, the NSF label is a good indicator the product can live up to its advertising claims.
When purchasing a water treatment device to remove lead, make sure it is certified under Standard 53 by NSF International. Contact NSF at 1-800-673-8010 for additional information.