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Lead in Your Water?

 

What is lead?

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around homes. Even at low levels, lead may cause a range of health effects including behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Children six years old and under are most at risk because this is when the brain is developing. The primary source of lead exposure for most children is lead-based paint in older homes. Lead in drinking water can add to that exposure.

 

Uses For Lead


Lead is sometimes used in household plumbing materials or in water service lines used to bring water from the main to the home. A prohibition on lead in plumbing materials has been in effect since 1986. The lead ban, which was included in the 1986 Amendments of the Safe Drinking Water Act, states that only “lead free” pipe, solder, or flux may be used in the installation or repair of  public water systems, or any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, which is connected to a public water system. But even “lead free” plumbing may contain traces of lead. The term “lead free” means that solders and flux may not contain more than 0.2 percent lead, and that pipes and pipe fittings may not contain more than 8.0 percent lead. Faucets and other end use devices must be tested and certified against the ANSI – NSF Standard 61 to be considered lead free.

 

What Are the Effects of Lead?

Exposure to low levels of lead over an extended period of time can have severe effects. Too much lead can damage your brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. Those at the greatest risk, even with short-term exposure, are young children and pregnant women.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead dosage that would have little effect on an adult can harm a small child. Lead in drinking water can be a problem for infants whose diet consists of liquids-such as baby formula made with water. Since they are growing, children absorb lead more rapidly than adults. That lead can then impair a child's development, resulting in learning disabilties or stunted growth.

 

How Does Lead Contaminate Drinking Water?

Single Lead Filter w/Housing
Lead-Chlorine-Sediment-E.Coli-Bacteria Double Filter w/Housing
Lead Filter
Lead-Chlorine-Sediment-Bacteria

Lead-contaminated drinking water is most common in recently constructed and very old homes.When copper pipes replaced lead pipes, lead solder and flux were often used to join the pipes. Lead solder is a major cause of lead contamination in drinking water today.

Homes with plastic drinking water lines, which are glued rather than soldered, should not have problems with lead contamination from pipes. However, household faucets may be a significant source of lead contamination. Chrome-plated faucets are generally made of brass, which contains 3 to 8 percent lead. Contamination can occur when water comes in contact with these fixtures.

The pH (acidity or alkalinity) of the water affects how easily lead dissolves from pipes, solder, or fixtures into the water. Corrosive water (which has a very high or very low pH) can dissolve lead from the supply pipes, faucets, or solder and flux used to connect copper pipes. Water can be tested to determine whether it is corrosive. Soft (water with a low mineral content), acidic water can dissolve lead from the pipes or solder of household water systems.

Water with a high mineral content may offer some protection from lead pipes or solder, as a mineral buildup on the inside of pipes prevents contact between water and the lead pipes or solder.

 

What are lead’s health effects?

Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.

This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for lead. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of the most significant and probable health effects, associated with lead in drinking water.

But lead in drinking water can also 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 this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.

Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent 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.

 

Effects on Children

The health consequences of lead exposure depend on the cumulative dose of lead and vulnerability of the individual person rather than the environmental media (i.e., food, water, soil, dust, or air) in which the lead exists. The developing fetus and child are more sensitive to lead exposure than adults because of the immaturity of the blood-brain barrier, increased gastrointestinal absorption, and hand-to-mouth behaviors, all of which increase exposure (11). Comorbidities such as iron deficiency also can enhance lead absorption.

Evidence from several prospective studies suggests that the adverse effects of early childhood exposure on neurodevelopment persist into the second decade of life (12–16). The mechanisms by which low levels of lead exposure might adversely affect neurobehavioral development remain uncertain, although experimental data support the involvement of many physiological pathways.

 

Effects on Adults

Overall. Adults with occupational exposure to lead report more colds and influenza and exhibit suppressed secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels, demonstrating lead-induced suppression of humoral immunity. Adults with occupational exposure also might have neurotoxic effects, including peripheral neuropathy. Motor nerve dysfunction can occur at low levels of exposure. Lead also is nephrotoxic and can cause progressive nephron loss leading to renal failure, gout, and hypertension. Lead exposure has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular, cancer, and all-cause mortality in several epidemiological studies. These effects might not be limited to adults with the long-term, high-dose exposure common in occupational settings. A study of approximately 13,000 adult participants in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) with 12 years of follow-up found that adults with the highest exposure were at increased risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality but not for cancer mortality compared with those with lower exposure.

Reproductive and Prenatal Effects. Lead exposure remains a concern for pregnant and lactating women, particularly those who have an occupational exposure to lead, who are recent immigrants, who are engaged in home renovations, or who have pica. Prenatal lead exposure has measurable adverse effects on maternal and infant health, such as fertility, hypertension, and infant neurodevelopment. In addition, because lead persists in bone for decades, as bone stores are mobilized to meet the increased calcium needs of pregnancy and lactation, women and their infants might be exposed to lead long after external sources have been removed. Adverse reproductive effects are not limited to women. In males with occupational lead exposure, abnormal sperm morphology and decreased sperm count have been observed.

 

Scope of Public Health Concern

In 2004, 143,000 deaths and a loss of 8,977,000 disease-adjusted life years were attributed to lead exposure worldwide, primarily from lead-associated adult cardiovascular disease and mild intellectual disability in children . Children represent approximately 80% of the disease impact attributed to lead, with an estimated 600,000 new cases of childhood intellectual disabilities resulting from lead exposure each year.

Filtering out Lead

There are two basic types of water filter. Those that are installed inside a water ionizer and those that are installed outside a water ionizer or as a standalone filter. External filter systems can be configured in any number of stages with each stage removing a particular type or group of contaminants. Removing one type or group of contaminants is often considered a 1-Stage filter (i.e. removing either chlorine, fluoride-lead-arsenic, or nitrates). Filters can be combined to form any number of stages to form: 2-Stage, 3-Stage, and even 7-Stage (i.e. reverse osmosis) filter systems. How many stages you need to filter your water depends on the possible contaminants in your water. The most common water contaminants include:

By combining different filters into a 2-Stage or 3-Stage system, you can remove multiple contaminants to produce a higher quality drinking water than with just a 1-Stage filter. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are more expensive, however, they are recommended for removing the highest percent (up to 99%) of contaminants from your water.

Please contact our customer support center for help with your water ionizer questions.

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