Once the story about Flint, Michigan’s water supply contamination came into the spotlight, everyone started taking notice of the importance of water quality and questioning whether or not their own was in fact clean. But, how exactly can you go about making sure that your drinking water is safe?
Lead was found in tap water in Flint, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 20 percent of Americans’ who are exposed to lead each year is due to contaminated water. Now, for those who don’t know, lead is toxic. When found in drinking water, there’s no way to see it, taste it, or smell it. And, even low levels of lead left to accumulate in the human body over time can eventually become very harmful.
Are You at Risk?
Whether your water comes from a public water system or a well on your property, the only true way to know if your water is contaminated is to test it to ensure that it’s safe and healthy to drink. Public water systems do their own testing, as is monitored and regulated by procedure, but water quality can vary from home to home, so testing yours is still a worthwhile investment. It’s especially important if you know your home has lead pipes or if your pipes were installed prior to 1986.
You can also request a copy of the Consumer Confidence Report if your home is supplied by municipal water. Testing is required and conducted on a regular basis, so these reports are available to the public. If your home uses well water, you need to have your water tested when it’s first dug, and then it’s important to test again if and when there are children in your home. Readings of safe levels of lead in water should be below 15 parts per billion.
The fact is, the only way to truly know whether or not you have safe drinking water is to have it tested. You can have this done professionally, or you can purchase a lead testing kit from your local hardware store, and do it yourself. But, if you do choose to conduct the test yourself, there are a few things you must keep in mind, including:
- Following the testing directions carefully and exactly
- Using “first draw water” to conduct the test. After sitting overnight, this is the very first water that comes out of your faucets for the day.
- Sending the water sample to a state-certified laboratory
How to Reduce Lead Exposure
In order to reduce exposure to lead and other harmful materials that could be found in your drinking water, here are some tips to help ensure everyone in your home stays safe and healthy:
- Use water filters. Some faucet and pitcher filters can actually remove lead from drinking water. But, if you use one, make sure that it’s certified by the National Sanitation Foundation International to remove lead.
- Regularly clean mineral build-up from your faucet’s screen.
- If a tap has been shut off for more than six hours, run it for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking.
- Cook with cold water, as lead is likely to be more concentrated in hot water.
- When mixing baby formula, use only cold water.
- If you’re particularly concerned, or if children or elderly persons residing in your home are exhibiting signs of lead poisoning, have them tested.
- For more information, questions or concerns, visit the EPA website or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
If your test results find lead in your home’s drinking water, talk to your trusty plumber. You may need replacement fixtures or pipes that could be the source of the contamination problem.