While the presence of Lead in water has been a concern for awhile because there was believed to be a correlation between adverse health effects and human exposure to Lead, a study published by health economics researchers from Lehigh University and Bentley University is the first to prove “a causal relationship between Lead in water and adverse fetal health outcomes.”
According to Lehigh University, researchers Muzhe Yang and Dhaval M. Dave used data from pregnant women whose homes were served by two different water treatment plants in the City of Newark. External changes of the water’s pH level cause Lead to seep into the water at one of the treatment plants, but not the other. The researchers found “prenatal Lead exposure increased the chance of low birth weight by 18% and increased the probability of preterm birth by 19%.”
No Safe Threshold for Lead Exposure for Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics has not determined any safe threshold of Lead exposure for children. Lead is especially a concern in utero, because Lead in a mother’s bones can potentially be used by the body to help form bones of the fetus. Lead found in a mother’s blood can also cross through the placenta and possibly lead to Lead poisoning in the fetus.
Drinking Water Contaminated by Lead
One of the lead researchers, Muzhe Yang, points out that the issue of Lead in water is not unique to Newark, but “rather emblematic of the nation’s aging water infrastructure.” Yang notes that a “substantial number of Lead water pipes remain in use as part of the aging infrastructure and the cost-benefit calculus of lead abatement interventions.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, drinking tap water could account for significant Lead exposure in both adults and children across the country – ”more than 20 percent of total Lead exposure for adults and 40 to 60 percent for infants.” The intro to the study mentions that “between 2018 and 2020, nearly 30 million people received their drinking water from community water systems that were in violation of the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.”
While Lead contamination in water continues to be a concern in the U.S., Congress has passed an infrastructure bill which includes $15 billion in funding for Lead pipe replacements.
How Lead Gets Into Tap Water
Lead can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing pipes and fixtures. Factors like water pH, mineral content in water, temperature, stagnation time, content of Lead in plumbing fixtures, etc., determine the degree of Lead in tap water.
How to Reduce Lead Consumption
If you are concerned with Lead consumption in tap water, there are precautions you can take to reduce or eliminate exposure. Use NSF Standard 53 Certified “point-of-use” filtration systems. Filter all your drinking and cooking water right before consumption using NSF certified filters. Flush your tap water from household plumbing systems before drinking, cooking, taking a shower, doing laundry or washing dishes, especially if the tap water has been stagnant and sitting in the plumbing line for more than 6 hours. Consume cold tap water. Consuming hot tap water increases the Lead content due to the higher degree of corrosion. Important Note: Boiling tap water will not remove Lead. It will only neutralize bio-contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and pathogens, but does not have any effect on removing chemicals and metals.