According the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead in drinking water contributes to 480,000 cases of lead disorders in children each year in the U.S. alone. Lead is also harmful to adults and can lead to cardiovascular issues, increased blood pressure, kidney issues, and reproductive problems for both men and women.

How does lead end up in our drinking water?

The most common sources of lead in our drinking water, according to the EPA, are lead pipes, faucets and fixtures. Lead will enter our water source when plumbing materials containing lead begin to corrode. Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. The corrosion of pipes and fixtures is caused by water that has high acidity or low mineral content. These pipes are typically found in homes where lead pipes connect the home to the main water source. Lead pipes are more common in older cities and/or in homes build pre-1986.

How does lead affect our health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that lead exposure at high levels has serious and irreversible effects on children, in particular. Exposure to lead can affect brain development in a child, resulting in behaviour issues, and a reduced IQ and attention span. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.

Symptoms of lead poisoning

In severe cases of lead poisoning, symptoms will appear quickly. Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning and can absorb lead four to five times more readily than adults and, because their bodies are still developing, the risks are further increased.

Symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain and vomiting
  • jaundice
  • lethargy
  • black diarrhea
  • encephalopathy, which affects the brain and can lead to seizures, coma, and death

However, symptoms are more likely to appear over time. This is known as chronic poisoning. Symptoms include:

  • slowed body growth
  • reduced IQ
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • constipation and mild abdominal pain
  • irritability
  • general fatigue
  • blue tinge around the gums
  • anemia
  • hearing loss and reduction in other senses
  • neurological weakness, in the later stages

U.S. cities where lead is a problem

The Flint, Michigan water crisis was one of the worst cases of contaminated water in U.S. history. Independent tests found that a significant proportion of samples had lead levels well above the “action level” for lead set by the EPA. Samples showed shocking levels of lead, more than 100 times the action level. An estimated 9,000 children, who are particularly sensitive to lead and its effects, were exposed to contaminated water. However, Flint isn’t the only city water issues related to lead. Reuters reported that nearly 3,000 areas in the U.S. had lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis.

Get protected: know what’s in your water

At AquaKnow, we work with a network of laboratories to facilitate water analysis for customers in all 50 states and U.S. territories to meet various regulatory requirements, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. AquaKnow is associated with one of the most independent laboratories in the U.S. specializing in the analysis of drinking water for chemical and microbiological contamination. Contact us today – we’ll help keep you and your family safe.