Lead Frequently Asked Questions

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The following are some of the Frequently Asked Questions and Answers regarding Lead and Drinking Water.

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water.

How can I be exposed to lead?

The most common source of lead exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978.

Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, lead also can be found in some household plumbing materials and some water service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

What are the risks of lead exposure?

Lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects when people are exposed to it. These effects may include increases in the blood pressure of some adults; delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children; and, deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children.

How does lead get into my drinking water?

Lead is rarely found naturally in our source water or in the treated water flowing through the distribution system. More commonly, lead leaches into water over time through corrosion—a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on the types and amounts of minerals in the water, how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity, and water temperature.

How will I know if my drinking water has lead in it?

The City of Newport Department of Utilities - Water Division regularly tests the water at a selected number of high-risk homes. If more than {insert number} samples show lead at above 15 micrograms per liter, we notify all of our customers and provide instructions on what to do to limit lead exposure as required by Rhode Island Department of Health.

You can also have your water tested for lead. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only sure way of telling whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water. A list of certified laboratories is available from the Rhode Island Department of Health at: www.health.ri.gov/find/labs/analytical

Is my home at risk for lead plumbing?

The EPA defines high-risk homes as follows:

  • Homes with a lead service line that connects the water main to your home’s internal plumbing.
  • Homes with copper pipe and lead solder built after 1982 and before 1988.
  • Homes with lead pipes. In 1986, Congress enacted the “lead ban,” which stated that not only public water systems, but also anyone else who intends to install or repair drinking water plumbing connected to a public water system, must use “lead free materials.” As a result, homes built in or after 1988 are far less likely to have lead solder.

I’m concerned my home may have lead plumbing. How can I find out?

If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead pipes (lead is a dull gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key) or if you see signs of corrosion (frequent leaks, rust-colored water), you may want to have your water tested by a state certified laboratory. Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or absent.

Will my water utility replace my lead service line?

The NWD is responsible for any lead service line from the water main to the curbstop (shut off valve) located near the property line.  Lead services lines from the curbstop to a home located on a customer’s property are not part of the public water system and are the responsibility of the property owner. NWD strongly advises that you contact a licensed plumber for work on your service line.

How can I reduce my exposure to lead in my drinking water?

There are many steps you can take to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water, but if you have lead service lines, the best step you can take is to have them replaced.

 In addition:

  • Run your water to flush out lead. If it hasn’t been used for several hours, run the cold water tapuntil the water becomes as cold as it will get . (To conserve water, remember to catch the flushed tap water for plants or some other household use such as cleaning.)
  • Always use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula. Never cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Never use water from the hot water tap to make formula.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • You may consider investing in a home water treatment device. When purchasing a water treatment device, make sure it is certified under NSF/ANSI 53 to remove lead. Search for certified products by contacting NSF International (800-NSF-8010) or the Water Quality Association (630-505-0160).
  • Identify and replace plumbing fixtures containing lead. Brass faucets, fittings and valves may leach lead into drinking water. Products sold after January 4, 2014, must by law contain very low levels of lead.
  • Have a licensed electrician check your wiring. Your home electrical system may be attached to your service line or elsewhere in your plumbing. If this connection is electrified, it can accelerate corrosion. Check with a licensed electrician to correct ground faults and evaluate your local electric code to determine if your wiring can be grounded elsewhere. DO NOT attempt to change the wiring yourself because improper bonding or grounding can cause electrical shock and fire hazards.

The following are additional resources for information on lead in drinking water:

        www.drinktap.org/water-info/whats-in-my-water/lead-in-water.aspx

       www.epa.gov/your-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water