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10 Critical Facts about Lead

  • Tap water contaminated with lead is associated with a wide range of physical and mental disorders, including neurological, reproductive, kidney, blood, and cognitive problems.a
  • Warm and hot tap water can contain much higher levels of lead than cold water. Therefore, boiling water does not reduce the amount of lead.d
  • Because lead can cross the placenta, an expectant mother who drinks tap water contaminated with lead places her fetus at risk for birth defects, premature birth, and even death. Even “normal” blood-lead levels in pregnant women can increase pregnancy risks.b
  • In a 2004 Washington Post investigation, it was found that several U.S. cities had tampered with water lead level results in order to avoid enforcing lead regulation and costly repairs to the water system.e
  • The EPA reports that 10-20% of human exposure to lead comes from tap water.c
  • According to the EPA, no amount of lead in drinking water can be considered safe.f
  • Even if municipal centers declare tap water lead-free, tap water can become contaminated with lead as it passes through city and home piping. Lead pipes, copper pipes with lead solder, or bronze and brass faucets containing lead can all contaminate tap water.c
  • Infants whose diets are made up of baby formula and other liquids made from tap water make up to 40-60% of total lead exposure.b
  • Epidemiology studies show even low levels of lead can cause severe damage in children, including a lowered IQ, behavioral abnormalities, and kidney damage.e
  • Homes built before 1978 are likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solders. However, because lead can leach from new and legally “lead-free” faucets and fittings into tap water, new houses can also pose significant risk for lead contamination.c

References

a Desonie, Dana. 2008. Hydrosphere: Fresh Water Systems and Pollution. New York, NY: Chelsea House.

b “Lead.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 11, 2010. Accessed: June 11, 2010.

c “Lead in Drinking Water.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. September 26, 2007. Accessed: June 4, 2010.

d O’Conner, Anahad. “The Claim: Never Drink Hot Water from the Tap.” New York Times. January 29, 2008. Accessed: June 4, 2010.

e Royte, Elizabeth. 2008. Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

f United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2003. Water on Tap: What You Need to Know. Darby, PA: Diane Publishing.