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Drinking Water: Lead-Pipe and Lead-Solder Concerns

By HHI Staff

Lead water pipes were once common, especially in ancient times. In fact, plumbum, the Latin word for lead and lead pipes, is the source of the symbol for lead — Pb. However, lead pipes were once used in this country, too, although they haven’t been for some time. If you live in an older home, you’ll want to check to see if it still has any lead piping. If you come across lead water pipes, you may want to have them replaced. This is because lead can migrate from the pipes into your drinking water, then slowly accumulate in your body and eventually cause lead poisoning.


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Is Your Public Water Safe?

If you have a lead problem in your drinking water, it is most likely caused by your own home's pipes. But if you are concerned about your public water supply, contact your local water utility and request a water quality report.


The Alameda County Water District in California, for example, performed 70,000 tests on the public water in 2005, looking for more than 180 substances. Two samples that year showed lead content exceeding the action level. 



It should be mentioned that the solder used on copper pipes could also pose a problem. Lead solder was commonly used by plumbers until it was prohibited by federal regulations in 1986. You may not be aware that brass can legally contain a small amount of lead, despite meeting what’s referred to as a “lead-free standard.” Therefore, there’s the potential for some brass plumbing fixtures to leech a certain amount of lead into the water.

You may be interested in knowing that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has reported that 10-20% of the lead content in children comes from tap water. Of course, waterborne lead includes any present from industrial pollution as well. For more EPA information on lead, you may want to call their National Lead Information Center. You may decide to have your water tested for lead. Home test kits are available.

Fortunately, water filters using activated charcoal in block form (especially if precoated) can strain out most of the lead in your water. (Some micro-pore filters and ceramic filters may be up to the job as well.) Most reverse-osmosis units and ion-exchange water softeners remove lead quite effectively. Another choice is KDF media.


From Creating a Healthy Household: The Ultimate Guide For Healthier, Safer, Less-Toxic Living, © 2000 by Lynn Marie Bower. Used by permission.



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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

Drinking Water: Lead-Pipe and Lead-Solder Concerns:  Created on February 22nd, 2007.  Last Modified on February 28th, 2011


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