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Lead In Water

Before it was banned in 1987, lead was commonly used to make plumbing materials such as pipes, solder, and a variety of brass pipes, fixtures, and fittings. Lead from these plumbing materials can enter drinking water because of corrosion or wearing away of the metal. The most significant contributor to lead contamination in drinking water is lead water pipes called service lines that connect homes or buildings to the public water supply.

Health Effects

Exposure to lead is harmful to health, especially for young children (under the age of six). A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells. Many effects are permanent.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

IDPH recommends following these important steps identified by USEPA to reduce lead in drinking water:

Have your water tested

Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether lead is present.

Learn if you have a lead service line

Contact your water utility or a licensed plumber to determine if the pipe that connects your home to the water main (called a service line) is made from lead.

Run your water

Before drinking, flush your home’s pipes by running the tap. The amount of time to run the water will depend on whether your home has a lead service line or not, and the length of the lead service line. Residents should contact their water utility for recommendations about flushing times in their community.

Learn about construction in your neighborhood

Be aware of any construction or maintenance work that could disturb your lead service line. Construction may cause more lead to be released from a lead service line. Pay attention to notifications from your water supplier about construction that may produce sediment possibly containing lead.

Use cold water

Use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Remember, boiling water does not remove lead from water.

Clean your aerator

Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator) with a vinegar and water mixture. Sediment, debris, and lead particles can collect in your aerator. If lead particles are caught in the aerator, lead can get into your water.

Use your filter properly

If you use a filter, make sure you use a filter certified to remove lead (NSF/ANSI Standard 53) and particulates (NSF/ANSI Standard 42). Read the directions to learn how to properly install and use your cartridge and when to replace it. Using the cartridge after it has expired can make it less effective at removing lead. Do not run hot water through the filter.

Protecting Children Outside of Your Home

Children spend a lot of time at school or in a child care facility. The faucets that provide water used for drinking, cooking, lunch, and preparing juice and infant formula, should be tested.