How to Remove Lead From Water

How to Remove Lead From Water
Flint, Michigan’s water crisis in 2015 spotlighted the dangers of lead contamination in city water. Their plight was a warning - and a wakeup call - to people in cities across the country at risk of a similar tragedy in their own homes.

If you’re worried about the possibility of lead in your water - or already dealing with it - there are effective solutions available. The right filtration system for you will treat not only lead, but also any other contaminants in the water, to ensure your drinking water is both clean and healthy.

What is Lead and How Does it Get Into Water?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that was the material of choice for water pipes for centuries. Because of health concerns, many manufactured materials - such as lead-based paint - either reduced or eliminated its usage entirely over the past 30 plus years.

The primary source of lead in drinking water is the lead service lines that connect homes to public water, lead pipes, and lead solder used to join copper pipes in homes.

Most homes built after the 1950s don’t have lead pipes, but lead soldering was common until it was banned by Congress in 1986 in an amedment to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Brass parts such as faucets, coolers, and valves may also contain some lead.

When these pipes or fixtures corrode, lead can into the water supply. Water that has high acidity - a pH below 7 - or low mineral content is especially corrosive to pipes.

In Flint, the city’s failure to properly treat the water after they changed their municipal water supply to a more corrosive source sent massive levels of lead from corroded pipes throughout the system, poisoning residents across the city.

This tragedy brought to light the risk that still lurks in municipalities across the country - aging lead pipes and service lines serving millions of people.

How do you know if you have lead in your water?

While you may worry that water with a metallic smell or taste signals lead, according to the CDC, you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in your drinking water.

However, the presence of other minerals or metals in your water can be a sign of the plumbing corrosion which precipitates lead exposure.

There is no safe level of lead in your drinking water, but the only way to know for sure if it’s present in your water is to test it.

How to test your water for lead

To find out if there is lead in your water supply, you can check out your municipal water treatment system’s yearly Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), or annual drinking water quality report. If you haven’t received it, you can either call your local water supplier or find your report at the EPA.

Of course this report can only tell you about the water that leaves the treatment plant, not what’s coming out of your faucet, so you might want to consider testing it yourself as well in case there’s a problem in the pipes or fixtures in your home.

You may be able to find out if you have a lead service line by contacting your municipal water treatment system. NPR also offers a brief quiz to assess your home’s plumbing, Do you have lead pipes in your home.

If you have private well water, you will need to test the water yourself to assess the health of your water supply.

You can choose to test for lead alone, or test your water for a range of contaminants to choose a filtration system to address all your issues.

Lead water test

Multi-point water test

What are the health risks of lead?

Ingestion of lead can cause serious health problems. When it enters your body, it can damage your brain and kidneys, and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body.

Lead exposure is especially dangerous to infants, young children, and pregnant women because of its effects on development. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, and inhibit both physical and mental abilities.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water is zero. Experts including the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no safe limit of lead exposure for children or adults.

While no level of lead in the water supply is considered safe, the EPA has set a maximum level of lead contamination in the tap water at 15 parts per billion (ppb). During the water crisis, one sample of Flint water had a lead level close to 1,000 times this level!

Does boiling water reduce lead?

Never boil water contaminated with lead, especially for cooking. According to the CDC, heating or boiling water will not remove lead, but instead increases its level of concentration.

Hot water is also more corrosive than cold water, and will more quickly dissolve lead, so cooking with lead-contaminated water is especially dangerous.

How do you get rid of lead in your water?

Because lead contamination may originate from either outside or inside your home (or both), pinpointing the source allows you to choose the best system for your needs.

If the pipes or fixtures in your home contain lead, a point of use (POU) system should be used. If the lead originates from distribution pipes outside your home, a point of entry (POE) system can treat all the water in your home.

POU: Lead reduction cartridge filters

To ensure your drinking water is lead-free, you can install a filtration system right at your tap. You can choose from countertop, undersink, and possibly refrigerator filters. (Note: Refrigerator filter availability is dependent upon your refrigerator model; Tier1Plus refrigerator filters are certified for lead reduction.)

Countertop filter systems

Undersink filter system

Refrigerator filters

POU: Reverse Osmosis System

For effective treatment of not only lead, but also a long list of other contaminants including arsenic, copper, fluoride and total dissolved solids, you can install an undersink reverse osmosis system.

Reverse Osmosis system

POE: Whole House Lead Removal Systems

To treat lead contamination from outside the home, you can install either a whole home cartridge system or a more robust system designed for lead reduction.

Whole house iron and lead reduction water cartridge kit

Lead Reduction whole house system

You can get rid of lead in your water

The risk of lead in your water supply is a legitimate concern for millions of households across the country.

Because lead doesn’t leave a telltale taste, smell or odor, it’s crucial to test your water for it, and figure out the source when you find it.

Whether you end up filtering your water at the tap, or treating your whole home water supply, the appropriate filtration system can ensure your water is both clean and healthy to enjoy.