Home > Technical Library > Drinking Water

Health Effects of Lead in Drinking Water

Lead is a major health hazard and is considered the number one health threat to children. The effects of lead poisoning can last a lifetime. Not only does lead poisoning stunt a child’s growth, damage the nervous system, but is now also linked to anti-social behavior in children. Lead interferes with the formation of red blood cells, damages kidneys, delays physical and mental development, and impairs mental abilities. In adults it leads to high blood pressure and impairs hearing and for pregnant women can cause damage to fetus and premature birth of babies. It can cause muscle and joint pain and reproductive problems in both men and women.

It has long been known that lead in drinking water is highly toxic, but how does it get into our drinking water? Lead has been used primarily in lead pipes (specially in the older homes where it is used to connect the wall water pipe outlet to the sink), lead solder and brass fixtures. Lead is added to metal alloys such as brass and bronze, and is used in water faucets and fixtures. Water is a universal solvent and it picks up the traces of lead as it passes through the plumbing and fixtures. If your home has naturally soft water it makes it even easier to pick up lead as soft water corrodes plumbing. Other sources could be exposure to lead-based paint, urban soil and dust.

For consumers who wish to take matters in their own hand, the good news is that it is possible to reduce lead levels in drinking water. Filtration systems to treat drinking water in the homes significantly reduce lead, in addition to reducing other contaminants as well. These include reverse osmosis, distillation, water softening, and solid block and precoat adsorption filters which are made from activated carbon or aluminia. Usually the water treatment units are composed of a combination of these technologies. If lead is your main concern, remember only solid block and precoat adsorption filters significantly reduce lead, activated granular carbon filters are not as effective in reducing lead. If you suspect lead in your water, have your water tested for lead contamination and then take appropriate action based on the results.

NSF Mark

Certified by NSF International to NSF/ANSI Standard 61.

WQA Member