As reported in TheTimes Group Papers

By the time you read this article, your family should have received a notice that your tap water may contain dangerous levels of lead.

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986 established special public notification requirements pertaining to lead. This notice must be given even if there is no violation of the drinking water standard for lead.

The maximum concentration of lead in public water supplies has been controlled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and state regulations since 1974. Now, anyone responsible for bringing drinking water to the tap must literally "get the lead out". The deadline for this process was June 19, 1989.

This deadline bans lead in the construction or repair of plumbing and water systems which are used for public consumption of drinking water.


Lead in tap water is rarely due to natural occurrence of the chemical in the source waters of our community's water supplies. Galvanized pipe and lead solder joints on copper plumbing in residential and commercial buildings are the major source of lead contamination.

Millions of homes, schools, hospitals, and industrial workplaces already use drinking water systems which employ galvanized pipe or lead solder on copper pipes.

The release of lead from these sources is due to the corrosive action of water, which dissolves small amounts of lead from the plumbing materials. The amount of lead dissolved from pipes depends on the "aggressiveness" or corrosiveness of the water, the contact time between the water and the plumbing, and the age of the plumbing.

Water with a pH of less than 7.0(acidic) and temperatures in excess of 68 degrees Fahrenheit will also increase corrosivity. Also, soft water(few dissolved minerals) tends to increase corrosivity.

Even stray electrical currents through your house plumbing, perhaps due to "grounding" a telephone, a CB radio or other appliance to pipes, will substantially increase the corrosion and the release of lead and other heavy metals into your drinking water.

You can actually see corrosion at work if your "first draw" of tap water in the morning is brown or rusty. It is this "first draw" that releases the greatest concentration of lead which has been released from the pipes during the overnight water contact time.

The public notice from your newspaper or water company also should have mentioned the use of water softeners. Water softeners remove calcium, magnesium and other "hard" minerals from tap water and replace them with "soft" minerals such as sodium and sodium compounds.

As part of this notification process, the EPA has recommended disconnecting water softeners from drinking water sources. They have equated naturally soft water and artificially "softened" water as having the same corrosive effect on lead pipes and solder joints.

Water softening companies contend that softeners do not change the corrosiveness of incoming tap water. An incredible amount of public relations time and money is being spent by water softener companies and their professional associations to "disprove" the EPA's position on water softeners and lead contamination.

With a water softener , you may not have corrosive "buildup" in house plumbing which sends rust (and lead) down the pipes to your water tap, or literally blocks water flow because of the buildup of corrosion inside pipes.

However, salt has incredible corrosive properties on it's own, as one can see if you inspect the underside of an automobile which has travelled up and down Interstate 80 through the mountains during winter snowstorms when salt is used to thaw frozen roadways.

Ask the individual who lives in Santa Cruz who leaves any metallic objects outside in the salt air for any length of time---if salt doesn't corrode metals(lead included).

Understandably, water softening companies are incredibly alarmed by this apparent threat to their livelihood---and you can expect to hear all types of cock and bull stories from them if you decide to remove your rental water softener or give the door-to-door water softener salesman a gentle shove towards the street.

As this editorial goes to the press, the EPA's San Francisco offices have indicated they are standing firm on their position and point out that insufficient evidence has been provided by industry to show that water softeners do not cause the release of lead into drinking water.


Lead in foods and drinking water has been associated with a wide variety of physical and mental disorders ranging from basic neurological processes, the gastro-intestinal system, the blood forming process, the reproductive processes of both men and women and kidney functions.

The extent of the physiological damage depends an individual's susceptibility and actual blood-lead level, which doctors measure in micrograms per deciliter of blood(ug/dl). Particularly hard hit are children, who can develop learning and growth problems. Cognitive damage is seen at moderate to high blood-lead levels(30-40 ug/dl) with possible problems with attention span and IQ deficit have been noted at levels as low as 10-15 ug/dl.

Since blood-lead can cross the placental barier, fetuses are at risk from lead bearing water their mothers consume. The EPA has reported that even blood-lead levels in the "normal" range of 6-20 ug/dl can complicate pregnancies and cause problems for newborns.

There are literally hundreds of medical reports from virtually every country in the free world as well as the Soviet Union on the dangers of lead in drinking water. The question is not if the problem exists, but one of how to deal with it.


In single family dwellings: talk to your local water utility. If testing is necessary, it should cost no more than $25-40 for such a test. Information on reliable laboratory testing for lead and other contaminants is available from Aqua Technology. If the potential for lead exposure seems likely, follow these steps:

After long period of non-use( first thing in the morning, late at night, or after long periods of absence), let the tap water run for about three to five minutes before using for drinking or cooking,

Since hot water dissolves lead more easily, always use cold water for drinking and cooking, especially for making baby formula.

In new construction or major renovation: insist on contractors using lead-free construction. Experts say that excessive lead levels may exist in pipes in new home construction for up to 5 years.

In purchasing a single-family dwelling: ask for a full disclosure of plumbing construction and construction dates. We recommend a certified laboratory test for lead on purchases of all homes, particularly new construction or very old homes which may use galvanized pipes.

In multi-family dwellings and apartments: seek a lease that calls for drinking water monitoring at the building owner's expense to detect lead contamination at the tap.

In commercial buildings(restaurants, hotels, industrial offices,): owners/management should establish a policy for monitoring "first draw" lead levels by working with the local water utility and/or health agencies. If a voluntary monmitoring system is not evident in a reasonable time, employees, though independent or union action should petition health agencies for action.

When monitoring indicates action, lead should be eliminated or alternative sources for drinking water should be provided(bottled water, water purifiers, etc.).

Public water fountains where lead action levels are found should be labelled with warnings to that effect.

In private and public schools, day care centers, rest homes, hospitals and similar facilities: because of the potential for adverse health effects on children and the elderly, owners/operators should establish an immediate "first-draw" monitoring system for drinking fountains and kitchens. If your PTA, church school adminstration, day care operator or other responsible individual does not bring up the subject of lead---and how they are dealing with it---you bring it up.


First, the things to avoid. Do not rely on a carbon filter to remove dissolved lead (or other heavy metals such as cadmium, zinc, etc) from your plumbing. Many filter manufacturers and distributors are running around door to door with technically correct, but grossly misrepresented literature which implies that their carbon filter "removes lead". Manufacturers and industry members wonder why legislation for dealer licensing and equipment registration are right around the corner!

Both Reverse Osmosis(R/O) and steam distillation are effective in removing lead from drinking water in your home. Each will process water for at least one special water spigot and icemaker in your kitchen.

Steam distillation will provide a more consistent and higher level of purity(and lead removal) than reverse osmosis for about the same price. Changing water conditions(or water sources) which are typical of many areas tend to favor distillation which is much more effective against widely varying water conditions and contamination levels.












































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