There are several easy things you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have children under the age of 6 living in your home.
- Flush your plumbing. Before using tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your plumbing by running the kitchen faucet (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on cold until the water stream is noticeably colder, then another full minute. This is especially important if your water has been sitting in your pipes and service line for more than six hours.
Showering, doing laundry and flushing the toilet all help clear water from the pipes that may contain lead. Bathing, showering and doing laundry in water from lead service lines or lead plumbing is safe. To conserve water, you can also reserve the flushed water and use it for watering household plants or outdoor plants.
You may also want to consider filling a clean container(s) with water from the flushed tap, and reserving this water for drinking, cooking, or other consumption.
- Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve lead more easily than cold water. Boiling water will not reduce the amount of lead in your drinking or cooking water. In fact, boiling can concentrate the lead in water. You can also consider if desired, purchasing bottled water from a known lead-free source for drinking and cooking.
- Inspect and clean all of your faucet aerators. On the end of your faucet is a screen that can catch debris, including particles of lead. Periodically remove the aerator and rinse out any debris before reinstalling the aerator.
- Purchase a faucet-mount or pour-through pitcher/carafe filter. Home drinking water filters can reduce or eliminate lead. Be sure to look for products certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53 for removal of lead and follow any manufacturer’s guidelines on installation and maintenance of the product. Information about these products can be found at www.nsf.org by typing in “lead filters” in the search bar or on the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services Website.
- Replace your lead service line and any interior plumbing containing lead. Lead pipe is shiny when scraped with a screwdriver, and a magnet will not stick to it. (Galvanized steel pipe is dull when scraped and a magnet will stick to it.) Replacement must be done by a licensed plumber under contract from the homeowner.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that all children under the age of 6 be tested at least once for lead poisoning. Pregnant or breastfeeding women at risk for lead poisoning should also be tested for lead in their blood. Lead has no beneficial role in the body and there is no minimum lead level that does not cause effects. Most lead poisoned people do not look or act sick. The Manitowoc County Health Department recommends that children who are at risk for lead poisoning should be tested at age one and age two. Children up to age 6 should have a blood lead test if there is no record of a previous test. Risks for lead poisoning include living in or frequent visits to a house built prior to 1978 or having a sibling or playmate diagnosed with lead poisoning. Pregnant or breastfeeding women who were exposed to lead at an early age or are at risk of lead exposure due to their environment, occupation, or hobbies should also get tested. Testing is available at your doctor’s office or at the Manitowoc County Health Department.