Lead has been used in the manufacture of household plumbing fixtures and water lines for many years. Although rarely found in source water, it can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built in the U.S. before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes as well as fixtures and solder containing higher levels of lead. In 2014, lead content standards were adopted in the U.S. that limit the amount of lead that manufacturers can use in the construction of plumbing fixtures.
If you suspect you may have lead in your water supply, take these steps to try to reduce your exposure:
- Run the kitchen and/or bathroom faucets for at least one minute in the morning or after coming home from school/work before getting a drink.
- Never use hot water for cooking or drinking, since hot water leaches more lead than cold water.
- Never drink water from any faucet other than the kitchen or bathroom tap; these are the only faucets in the home required to meet current lead content standards.
If you are unsure if lead is an issue in your home, consider having a sample of your tap water tested. Your local water or health department may be able to help you locate a water testing lab in your area. If the detected level exceeds 0.010 mg/L (for Canada) or 0.015 mg/L (for U.S.), consider purchasing certified bottled water or use a filter certified for lead reduction until you are able to locate and eliminate the source of the lead in the water supply.
NSF International has created a consumer guide to NSF-certified lead filtration devices for reduction of lead in drinking water that explains the NSF standards and the process by which NSF International verifies a filter’s ability to reduce lead in drinking water. Some of the products listed in the guide may also be certified to reduce other contaminants besides lead.