Lead and Your Drinking Water
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has been working closely with water agencies across the nation to update and improve rules concerning the amount of lead in drinking water. Lead was commonly used in older household plumbing materials and some water service lines.
None of the water service pipelines used by the Contra Costa Water District contain lead. Within our District, the greatest chance for exposure to lead is from the pipes and fixtures used in older homes, usually those built before 1986 when plumbing rules changed.
Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink water containing lead over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.
Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. New homes are also at some risk. Legally "lead-free" plumbing may contain up to 0.25% lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.
How to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water at Home
Flush your pipes before drinking and only use cold water for consumption. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Any time water in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, "flush" your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get.
Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.
These two recommendations are very important to the health of your family. They will probably be effective in reducing lead levels because most of the lead in household water usually comes from the plumbing in your house. Read our water quality tips to reduce lead exposure (PDF).
Some commercial water filters claim to remove lead from water. Please check the package to make sure the filter is certified to meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Standard 53 for removing the contaminant “lead” before buying one of these filters. Check NSF’s list of Certified Water Filters for Lead Reduction.
How to Tell if Your Water Contains Too Much Lead
Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water. You should be particularly suspicious if your home has lead pipes (lead is a dull gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key), or if you see signs of corrosion (frequent leaks, rust-colored water, stained dishes or laundry).
If you would like to have the water within your residence tested, here are Local State-Certified Commercial Laboratories in our service area.
For more information on lead in drinking water please send us an email or call our Water Quality Hotline at 925-688-8156.