Is Your Tap Water Safe? Concerns related to Lead Pipes, Plumbing Fixtures

lead pipes plumbing
lead pipes plumbing

Flint, Michigan is the town that comes to mind when talking about water quality, but lead poisoning can happen wherever there is lead pipes plumbing. Learn about contamination risks and how to protect yourself and your family.

Safe Levels of Lead for Humans? Zero.

Lead is something you don’t want in your bloodstream – at all. If you haven’t had your tap water tested, do it ASAP. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, plumbing fixtures, and faucets. If your house has an old plumbing system, specifically pipes and faucets made before 1987, there’s a higher chance of finding lead in your tap water.

The good news is that bathing and showering with lead-laced water isn’t dangerous because lead cannot be absorbed through skin. However, drinking and cooking with lead contaminated water is very dangerous.

The EPA set a goal for safe lead levels to zero. Toxic lead exposure is bad for adults but even more of a risk for pregnant women, babies and children. Though not immediate, lead exposure can cause serious health and developmental problems. A blood test will reveal if you or a loved one has lead poisoning.

blood test for lead pipes plumbing
blood test for lead pipes plumbing

Developmental Problems and Health Risks Traced back to Lead

  • damage to the central and peripheral nervous system
  • learning disabilities
  • shorter stature
  • impaired hearing
  • impaired formation and function of blood cells

Protect Your Family From Toxic Tap Water, Lead Pipes, Plumbing, etc.

Make it a priority to find out if there’s lead in your tap water. Especially if you live in an older house or building, or if you know that your plumbing service line is made from lead. If your tap water comes from a public water supply, call your water company to ask about any risk of lead exposure to your home. There are programs available to expedite the process of replacing lead pipes plumbing when it’s a matter of public safety- as in the case of Flint, Michigan.

For those using a private water supply such as a well, you should get your water tested for lead. Water testing can cost as little as $20 using a kit, or you can send a water sample to a lab to have your water tested. If you live here in Montana, here are some resources to help you find a certified lab.

water test for lead pipes plumbing
water test for lead pipes plumbing

Start Taking Safety Precautions Immediately

If you have any concerns about lead in your water, start taking precautions today! There are easy ways to minimize your risk of lead exposure. Since lead contamination happens when lead pipes and plumbing begins to corrode, it’s more likely to leech into your tap water if the temperature is hot or if the water has been sitting idly in your pipes. You should get your water tested as soon as possible and install new water lines if there’s a problem, but here are safety precautions to take in the meantime:

  • Run cold water only through your pipes. Boiling water doesn’t remove lead so it’s safer to fill a pot with cold tap water to minimize leaching
  • Before getting water from the tap, turn the water on and let it run for two minutes to flush it out. Water that has been sitting in lead pipes or plumbing tanks will pose the higher risk.
  • Or, install a water cooler in your kitchen or bathroom for worry-free use when drinking water or brushing your teeth. A water cooler will be more effective than using disposable bottles of water.
water bottles are safer than lead pipes plumbing
water bottles are safer than lead pipes plumbing

3 Ways to Fix a Lead Pipes Plumbing Issue

If your water test results reveal lead in your water, you’ll want to get that fixed right away. Filtering your water is a short term solution but the best thing is to eliminate the source by replacing all lead pipes plumbing.

1. Filter the lead out of your tap water

For an immediate, short term solution you should filter all tap water before using it. There are products you can use or have installed in your kitchen or bathroom to remove lead from your tap water. Some water filters are inexpensive and can be used/installed on your own, and others are professionally plumbed into your pipes. Some of your options include: Counter-Top Connected to Sink Faucet, Faucet Mount, Refrigerator Filter, Plumbed-In Filter, and Plumbed-in To Separate Tap. Use the detailed list on this guide, developed by the experts and scientists at NSF International, to choose products that remove lead to make tap water safe for drinking.

2. Replace the lead pipes plumbing in your home

If the problem is with your residential lead pipes plumbing system, the only way to truly resolve the issue is to overhaul the plumbing and replace all lead pipes and fixtures. For residents in western Montana, there are financing options to make the overhaul more financially doable. Plumbing contractors like Garden City Plumbing & Heating offer reasonable rates and flexible payment options. There is no reason to put your family at a health risk simply because you don’t have the money on hand. Click here to see plumbing estimates or call to get a quote and discuss financing options. Explain your concerns about lead pipes plumbing and set a day to get it fixed!

Lead Service Line Replacement Collaboration (NRDC is a member of the Collaboration.)

3. Have the City replace your service line/ fix water main

If your home plumbing system isn’t the issue but there’s still lead leeching into your water, it’s time to call the City. You are not responsible to pay for replacing the service line that delivers water to your house from a public source. The water utility company is required to replace the lead pipes or treat the water if there’s lead or other contaminants present. Educate yourself on partial lead pipe replacement, which is a shortcut they may try to take. This partial fix is not advisable and can actually cause higher levels of lead and toxins because of galvanic corrosion.

fix your lead pipes plumbing as soon as possible
fix your lead pipes plumbing as soon as possible

Find a Plumbing Company in Your Area and Call for Professional Help

If you’re in Missoula, Montana area, call Garden City Plumbing & Heating to get professional, affordable help with your tap water. For all others, use this online database to search your area and find a top rated plumber.

Don’t accept a lead pipes plumbing setup as something you have to live with. It’s not worth the risk! Get the problem fixed ASAP so you and your family will have clean water that is safe to drink.