If you receive your water from a private well, you’re responsible for the quality and safety of your home’s water supply. The EPA recommends annual testing to ensure the health of your well. One important well water test to include annually is a lead test. This is necessary for every occupant in the home, but if you have infants or small children, testing should be a priority.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that is naturally occurring and found in small amounts on the earth’s outer layer. It is rarely found naturally in groundwater but was used for many years in products around the home, including plumbing pipes, fittings, and solder. As a result, small amounts of it can get into your water supply as your water travels through your plumbing system after it leaves your well.
Corrosion causes lead to leach from pipes, solder joints and brass alloy faucets. If your water has low pH (acidic), has low mineral content or a high salt content it can react with any lead present to cause corrosion.
The Health Effects of Lead
The lead that is present in drinking water can have negative health effects for anyone who drinks it. However, the effects can be much worse in infants and young children. Exposure to high levels can result in delays in physical and mental development. In adults, high-level exposure can lead to kidney problems and high blood pressure. The main sources of exposure are ingesting lead paint and inhaling dust. The EPA estimates that only 10 to 20 percent of human exposure may come from drinking water. However infants who consume mixed formula can receive up to 60 percent of their exposure from drinking water.
Public water systems are required by law to screen and take action if more that 10% of samples tested exceed the legal limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb). However, the EPA does not regulate for homes that receive water from a private water supply. That is the responsibility of you, the homeowner.
Should I have My Water Tested For Lead?
The short answer is yes. Testing is especially important if you have infants, small children, or pregnant or nursing women living in your home. It cannot be seen, has no taste or odor, and testing is the only way to detect its presence. Contact your local health department for a list of state-certified testing laboratories.
You should be concerned if your home has lead pipes or if you see signs of corrosion like frequent leaks, rust-colored water, stained dishes or laundry, or if your non-plastic plumbing is less than five years old.
If you suspect and contamination is present in your water or your water tests positive there are some precautionary actions you should take:
• Use only cold water for drinking or cooking
• Run water for 15 seconds before drinking, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
• Take treatment steps to reduce the corrosivity of your water
• Install point of use filters or a distillation system for your drinking and cooking water supply.
If you have any questions, you should contact a state-certified well water professional. They can help you with testing and offer options for reducing the lead levels in your water.