Purifying Your Water: A Comprehensive Guide to Safely Remove Lead Contamination
Many people know that lead poisoning, a health problem caused by the accumulation of lead in the body, is a thing. Lead is known to be harmful to the human mind and body, especially children.
In addition to exposure to lead-contaminated objects before eating, the body is also exposed to lead from lead-contaminated water. This lead contamination in the water cannot be tasted or smelled. Sometimes the only clue that there is lead in your water is an old lead pipe system that is in poor condition. So how can you remove lead from your water?
What is Lead?
Lead is a blue-gray metal that occurs naturally in the environment, but in trace amounts. And in most cases, these lead deposits are the result of human activities such as mining, manufacturing, or burning fossil fuels.
Lead is also found in lead-containing paints, batteries, metal pipes, and X-ray protected equipment. For health reasons, lead is often removed from gasoline, paint, and ceramic products. For the same reason, the lead content in pipe plumb bobs has recently been reduced. However, controlling lead levels in household water remains a concern for most households.
How does Lead get into Drinking Water?
Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. It normally enters water via the water supply system, which is why lead pipes are the main cause of high levels of lead in tap water. Due to its leak resistance, lead is an important ingredient in plumbing and pipe manufacturing. In many cities, lead pipes are still used for domestic water supplies and in some domestic plumbing fixtures.
Normally lead is coated with a protective layer of metal oxides to prevent direct contact between water and lead. However, extreme care must be taken to prevent corrosion of this protective layer. If corrosion of lead water supply lines is not prevented, large amounts of lead can occur in drinking water.
Remember that water temperature and chemistry contribute to the corrosion of metal pipes. Hot water is more corrosive than cold water and soft water is more corrosive than hard water. Acidic water (low pH) is also a source of corrosion for household plumbing. Another way lead gets into domestic water is through corrosion in the domestic plumbing system. Because lead-based solder is commonly used to join household plumbing, lead can contaminate your drinking water if the plumbing is old and subject to chemical corrosion. Lead can also get into the water if there are strong vibrations when using faucets.
How do you know If there’s Lead in your water?
The US Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum allowable lead content in drinking water at 15 micrograms per liter (µg/L). In addition, the Maximum Contaminant Level Objective (MCLG) for lead, which represents the margin of safety without any potential side effects or health risks, is zero. Any significant amount of lead in excess of these regulations poses a potential health hazard.
If for any reason you suspect your drinking water is contaminated with lead, or you want to know the level of lead in your household water, contact your water utility for the latest water quality report or contact your state certification agency to find labs that can test your drinking water for free.
Health Risks of Lead in Drinking Water
Lead poisoning can cause both long-term and short-term health problems. These health effects of lead in water include abdominal pain, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, high blood pressure, loss of appetite, anemia and even kidney dysfunction, as well as headaches, memory loss and sleep problems. Drinking lead-contaminated water can also lead to certain developmental and intellectual disabilities in children, such as slow growth, hearing problems, behavior problems, low IQ and learning difficulties.
Useful Tips for Reducing Lead Water Intake
Before we talk about lead water solutions, here are some tips to reduce the risks of consuming water containing lead.
- Avoid drawing hot water from the dedicated hot water tap for cooking, making tea or baby food. In fact, direct hot water can contain a large amount of lead because the temperature promotes corrosion. Instead, use cold tap water and then heat it yourself to reduce the risk of lead contamination.
- Flush your pipes by running the water for a while before using it. Because the longer the water stays in the pipes, the higher the risk of contamination.
- Consider treating your drinking water with treatment methods that remove lead from water.
Remember that heating or boiling your water will not remove the lead. Instead, the lead concentration increases as some of the water evaporates during the boiling process.
How to Remove Lead from Water
The removal of lead from water can be done with special water filters designed for different water conditions and for different purposes. Other methods of removing lead from water include reverse osmosis, distillation, activated carbon filtration (ion exchange filtration, whole house filtration or granular activated carbon filtration).
This method of removing lead from water captures larger ions such as lead and iron that are present in the water while pushing the water through a membrane. You can easily install a point-of-use reverse osmosis system near your kitchen sink. The reverse osmosis system can be a bit slow; It produces an average of about 50 to 100 gallons of purified water per day, but it’s also inexpensive. The taste of your water may also be affected as this method also removes minerals.
Does reverse osmosis remove lead from water? Yes. Reverse osmosis filters are often considered the best water filter for lead removal. Unlike other water treatment filters, their performance is not affected by the presence of other minerals in the water.
The water distillation system works by removing dissolved solids from water through distillation. Some simpler versions are designed for home use. However, a limitation of this method is that it can only produce a small amount of treated water per day. In addition, energy is required to heat the water, which is not always profitable.
Activated Carbon Filtration
Activated carbon absorbs heavy metals like lead, magnesium and many other harmful pollutants. But not all activated carbon filtration completely removes lead. Filter cartridges fill up quickly and need to be replaced frequently. Also, the lead removing ability of filters deteriorates after treating a certain amount of water, depending on the quality and performance of the filters.
Ion exchange filters remove lead molecules through absorption. This is done in a filter cartridge containing mineral particles or resins, which can be part of your installed point-of-use water treatment system.
Whole House Filters
Before the water enters the house, water filters are installed at the main entrance or throughout the house. Whole-home water filters are very effective in purifying well water, significantly reducing iron and lead levels. One of the best categories, suitable for large water units using more than 100 gallons per day, are the 15 ppb and 25 ppb filters. For commercial or large-scale use up to 150,000 gallons per day, 100 ppb water filters are suitable.
Granular Activated Carbon or GAC Filters
The granular activated carbon filter is another form of point-of-sale water filtration system. It is pH sensitive and works most effectively when the water pH is no higher than 7. It is also one of the most affordable whole house water filters for lead removal.
FAQs: About Lead and How to Remove From Water
- What are the early symptoms of lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning can have various symptoms, including abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, and memory issues. In severe cases, it may lead to seizures or coma. If you suspect lead exposure, seek medical attention promptly.
- Can boiling water remove lead?
Boiling water does not remove lead; in fact, it can increase lead concentration as water evaporates, leaving more lead behind. To remove lead, consider using a water filtration system designed for lead removal.
- How often should I replace the water filter?
The replacement frequency varies depending on the type of filter and the manufacturer’s guidelines. Typically, it is recommended to replace the filter every 3 to 6 months or as specified in the product instructions.
- What do I do if my water test shows high lead levels?
If your water test reveals high lead levels, take immediate action to reduce exposure. Consider using a certified lead-filtering system and follow local health department recommendations to safeguard your health.
- Can lead pipes be safely cleaned, or should they be replaced?
Cleaning lead pipes is not recommended, as it can release more lead into the water. It is best to replace lead pipes with lead-free alternatives to ensure a safe water supply.
Do You Need To Remove Lead From Water?
If you have any other questions about lead contamination and lead removal water filters, please do not hesitate to contact Wisler Plumbing & Air we offer Free Water Testing Roanoke, VA. Most household water problems are related to the water supply itself. Helping you get clean, treated water is our specialty and we look forward to helping you with that.