This water tastes a little heavier than usual: Lead in water

The Flint lead-contaminated water crisis is the worst thing to have befallen that city since Michael Moore. But who’s to say that the water in your city – or even your home – isn’t as full of lead as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at the end of Bonnie & Clyde?  Lead still can be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street, even after 20 years of efforts to decrease lead exposure to in tap water – such as the 1986 and 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Lead and Copper Rule.

Lead in tap water is typically the result of corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can seep into the supply of water. Lead is flavorless, odorless, and for all intents and purposes invisible. The only way to detect its presence is having the water tested – especially if you have small children, who are at a higher risk for lead poisoning.

Reducing lead in tap water

Ask your water provider whether your tap water has lead at levels exceeding EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb).


Do nothing.


 Does the service pipe at the street have lead in it?


The lead may come from fixtures, pipes, or elsewhere in the house. Until you eliminate the source:

1.       Flush your water system by running the kitchen tap on cold for 1-2 min. before using tap water to cook or drink.

2.       Collect several containers of water from that tap – after you have flushed the water from the tap as described – which will be fit to drink, cook with, and prepare baby formula. 


The lead may come from that pipe or connected pipes, though that doesn’t rule out the possibility that it comes from inside the house. Until the lead source is eliminated:

1.       Run high-volume taps (such as the shower) on cold for 5 minutes or more.

2.       Run the kitchen tap on cold for 1-2 additional minutes.

3.       Repeat step 2 from above.


Regardless of the circumstances under which your water contains lead, keep in mind the following:

·         Drink or cook only with water that comes out of the tap cold.

·         Water that comes out warm/hot can contain higher levels of lead.

·         Boiling water does not eliminate lead.

·         Consider drinking bottled water certified for consumption or water from a filtration system certified to reduce lead by an independent testing organization, such as:

-        NSF International.

-        International Bottled Water Association.

·         The CDC recommends bottled water or water from a filtration system for homes with children or pregnant women and with water lead levels exceeding EPA’s action level of 15 ppb.

·         Ensure that repairs to copper pipes do not employ lead solder.

·         Test water after plumbing work in older housing.

·         Check the aerator on the end of the faucet and remove metal particles and other debris.

·         Water with high levels of lead is safe for bathing and showering.

Related: Advice for Parents of Children with Lead Poisoning