Lead In my Water Supply! Now what?

The negative health effects of elevated blood lead levels are well known. In adults, high levels such as those found in some manufacturing workers, can cause the symptoms below. Unlike adults, children can suffer from health effects even at low levels of exposure.

blog health effects1

Before the 1980’s one of the major sources of lead exposure was the drinking water, due to the use of lead pipes, solder, and flux. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply. The 1986 SDWA Lead Ban required the use of lead-free pipe, solder, and flux in the installation or repair of residential and public water systems. Older homes and township water supplies may still have lead pipes or lead solder.

Unfortunately, replacement of lead pipes in your township or in your home may temporarily increase the amount of lead in your water. In 2012, the EPA tested 29 homes in the Chicago area for lead in tap water and found that over half of the homes tested had samples with >15 parts per billion lead, which is above the acceptable limit. The water supply leaving the water treatment plant was below this limit, so the lead was acquired between the plant and the home faucets.

If you are concerned that you may have high levels of lead in your water, here’s what you can do: 

  1. Follow these tips:
  • Use cold water for drinking or cooking. Never cook or mix infant formula using hot water from the tap.
  • Make it a practice to run the water from the tap before use.
  • Do not drink the water that has been sitting in your home’s plumbing for more than six hours. Run the water first until you feel the temperature change before using the water for cooking, drinking, or brushing your teeth.

REMEMBER: Boiling your water will not get rid of lead!

  1. If you live in an older home consider having your water tested. For more information on testing your water, call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
  1. Consider purchasing in-home water filters that remove lead.

If you use a filter, use one that is certified to remove lead by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Listed below are examples of filters that are NSF certified to remove lead. If you want to see if a home water filter is certified for lead removal, you can search using this link:  http://www.wqa.org/Find-Products

Company Model Cost NSF certification

for Lead removal

Brita FF-100
$15 replacement
replace 2 months
Brita Filters Approved for Lead Removal
Culligan FM-100-C
$15 unit
$15 replacement filter
replace 2 months
Culligan Filters Approved for Lead Removal
Aquasana AQ-4000B
$20-80 unit
$15-20 replacement
Aquasana Water Filters Approved for Lead Removal
LG WAW53JW2RP $2,500 LG Water Filters Approved for Lead Removal
Tupperware China Nano Nature Water Filtration System $1,000 Tupperware Water Filtration System that Removes Lead

Who can I contact for more information?

  • For information on drinking water call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline: (800) 426-4791.
  • For additional information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.


Resources for Lead in Tap Water 






For Physicians:

To report an elevated Blood Lead Level: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/provdrs/environmental_health/svcs/request_a_home_inspection.html

This post was written by Jennifer Girard, Medical student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. Edited by Susan Buchanan, MD.


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