Lead In Drinking Water
"Lead is the number one environmental health threat to our children"
By U.S. department of Health and Human Services
Next to chlorine, lead is the most common contaminant found in tap water. Lead in drinking water usually originates between the water main in the street and the household faucet; thus, treatment from a central point is neither logical nor practical. Most lead in drinking water comes from lead-lined pipes, lead solder and brass plumbing fixtures inside your home. The EPA estimates that 98% of all homes have pipes, fixtures or solder joints in the household plumbing that can contribute some level of lead to the tap water.
It has been determined and recognized by the EPA that there is no safe level for lead in drinking water and that any level poses some degree of adverse health effects.
Ironically, lead takes its greatest toll on small children. Even very low levels of lead can cause reduced IQ, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems, such as hypertension and reduced attention span in children. Quite often the effects of lead are lifelong and irreversible.
In adults lead in drinking water causes high blood pressure, reduces hemoglobin production necessary for oxygen transport, and interferes with normal cellular calcium metabolism. Waterborne lead affects everyone in a very tragic and permanent way. Lead exposure is cumulative and long lasting. The body stores this toxic metal, primarily in the teeth and bones. When the body is under physical stress, or deficient in certain minerals, the stored lead is released in varying quantities, depending upon the individual’s physical state.
Essentially, lead has a very damaging effect on the body’s nervous system. It causes the critical, life-giving messages, sent from the brain to every cell and organ in our body, to become distorted. This results in the onset of several tragic health effects.
It is estimated by the U.S. EPA that lead in drinking water contributes to 560,000 cases of learning disorders in children and 680,000 cases of hypertension in adults each year in the U.S. alone. Some studies have even shown a relationship in exposure to lead and adolescent crime. The effects of lead in drinking water; depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and hypertension are many of the same factors that lead to anti-social behavior and, in some cases, to violent activities in children and teenagers.
In the first quarter of 1993, the EPA released a first-time report that showed the results of the new “test at the tap” requirements for lead in drinking water. The report documented that, in America, 42 states exceeded the legal limits of lead in drinking water and that other states failed to do the required testing. Some areas had lead levels in excess of 450 parts per billion, thirty times the legal limit of 15 ppb! The level the EPA has set as the safe level, or MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal), is -0- ppb.
The U.S. EPA has also documented that, in adult males, better control over lead in drinking water could prevent over 680,000 cases of hypertension, 650 strokes, 880 heart attacks, and 670 premature deaths from heart disease every year in America alone.
In 1991, the U.S. EPA lowered the federal standard for the allowable level of lead in drinking water from 50 ppb (parts per billion) to 15 ppb. This new standard was an improvement, but, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it was in violation of federal law. The law requires the EPA to set MCLs based on “health effects” and not economic feasibility. Despite the fact that research presented to the EPA documented that there is NO safe level for lead in drinking water, the allowable level was set at 15 ppb after an intense lobbying effort by the water utilities. EPA’s new standard also gave water utility companies that were out of compliance up to 20 years to comply.
Essentially, every household with indoor plumbing has some level of lead in the tap water that represents a health risk. The biggest tragedy of lead contamination from drinking water is that it is completely preventable. By taking a few simple steps, one being point-of-use filtration of our drinking water, we can virtually eliminate the crippling effects of lead on our society and, more importantly, on our children.