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Protect Children from Lead Exposure in Drinking Water

Dr. Jonathan Doyle - Updated September 09, 2021
Although Flint, Mich, and Newark, N.J, have excessively high levels of lead-contaminated drinking water, the situation is not unique. Generally, millions of Americans may be drinking lead-contaminated water unknowingly because of old lead pipes, faucets, or other plumbing fixtures that have a high lead concentration. Lead has devastating effects, especially in children, causing effects that can last a lifetime.

Common Causes of Lead Exposure

Instinctively, children put toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouths, thus, putting them in danger of contacting lead paint or dust.
Contact with chips, dusts in buildings, and old lead paint in homes is a common way of exposing children to lead. Children swallowing chipped pieces of lead paint is direct lead exposure. However, swallowing house dust or soil contaminated with lead paint is more common in children.
  • Soil and water: gasoline additives or paint can introduce lead to the soil, lasting for years. Also, lead and copper pipes soldered with lead can contaminate tap water.
  • Lead paint: since 1978, the United States has banned using lead-based paints in homes, children’s toys, and household furniture. However, lead-based paints are still used in older homes and apartments, especially on walls and woodwork, exposing children to lead-based paint chips.
  • Children’s products: children’s jewelry or products from vinyl or plastic, including backpacks and lunch boxes, often contain lead. Children can inhale lead when these products are burned, damaged, or deteriorating. Also, mouthing or chewing these products can expose children to lead.
  • Household dust: paint chips or soil brought from outside can contribute to lead-containing household dust.
  • Food: production, processing, packaging, preparation, or storage can expose food to lead. For instance, vegetables may be grown in lead-containing soil or exposed to lead-containing fuel exhaust. Furthermore, tins manufactured with lead solder can expose canned foods to lead. Also, food containers and pots like lead-glazed pottery and leaded crystal glassware contain lead.

How Does Lead Contaminate Drinking Water?

Common sources of lead exposure in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures. Corrosion and other chemical reactions can contaminate water with lead. These reactions can result from high acidity levels, the concentration of minerals in the water, and how long water stays in lead pipes. In addition, the amount of corrosive water in pipes and the presence of protective coatings can make water unsafe for drinking by leaching lead into tap water.
Generally, homes built before 1986 have water pipes and household plumbing fixtures that can contaminate drinking water with high lead levels. Also, communities close to industrial or agricultural sites are at risk of having a high lead concentration in their tap water. Chemical use and improper waste disposal can contaminate groundwater with lead. Each city is responsible for its water maintenance and sanitation protocol; therefore, water quality varies with location and a city’s water system.
How Does Lead Contaminate Drinking Water

Lead-Causing Health Problems

Lead exposure over time can lead to abdominal pain, constipation, depression, distraction, forgetfulness, irritation, and nausea or sickness
The body can absorb lead through the digestive tract, lungs, and skin. Accumulation of lead in the body can cause lead poisoning. Ingesting lead poses serious health risks to children and adults. Also, lead consumption can cause irreversible neurological problems in children, causing lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a chronic illness that causes severe damage to the immune system, bones, and teeth; it can also lead to learning, behavioral, and developmental issues. Children can also experience stunted growth, hearing impairment, and anemia. Premature births and hindered fetal development are also a result of lead poisoning. For adults, problems in the kidney and cardiovascular and reproductive systems are a result of lead poisoning.
Lead exposure in children lowers IQ, causing hearing problems, slows growth, and causes behavioral and learning difficulties. Infants get exposed to 40 to 60% of lead through drinking water in their mixed formulas. The symptoms discussed in this article are just a few of the potential symptoms of lead poisoning. These symptoms may be indicative of other health problems. Therefore, it is best to consult your primary care physician if you have any concerns.

How Can You Reduce Lead in Drinking Water?

Testing water

Knowing the type of contaminant in drinking water helps you know the most appropriate filter. Utility companies provide your water supply’s contamination report. Nevertheless, you should test the water from your faucet with a test kit because water can absorb contaminants after leaving the water treatment plant.

Running water

It is best to flush your home’s pipes by taking a shower, running the tap, or doing the laundry or dishes before drinking. The time for running water depends on if your home has a lead service line and the length of the lead service line. Residents can get recommendations about the length of flushing times in their communities by contacting water utilities.

Using filters properly

Fortunately, it is possible to remove lead from drinking water. After identifying the contamination source and the intensity of lead accumulation per gallon, one of the easiest ways of removing lead from water is using an appropriate water filter. It is essential to find sources of lead generation in your water supply.
Reverse osmosis is a process that allows solvents to pass through a porous membrane in a direction opposite to that of natural osmosis when the solvent is subject to pressure. Reverse Osmosis Systems can remove particles larger than water molecules, including naturally occurring trace minerals from water. The Reverse Osmosis process is suitable for removing particles like lead, fluoride, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and asbestos.
The NSF 58 and 372 certified Waterdrop Reverse Osmosis System has a 7-stage deep filtration process capable of removing lead, chlorine, taste, and odor. The system can also remove sand, rust, solids, bacteria, viruses, and numerous impurities. This smart RO system is the first of its kind in the U.S market, and it has composite filters and a tankless design. Three filters provide the seven stages of filtration. The pre-sediment and carbon block filter is a 3-in-1 filter functioning as a combination of three filters. The Reverse Osmosis System membrane filter has an innovative design and efficiency of more than three filtration stages. In addition, the activated carbon block has high-precision activated carbon granules from natural coconut shells for improving water taste.

To Wrap Things Up

Lead poisoning can have devastating effects on human health. Although eradicating lead sources may be entirely impossible for an individual, getting an appropriate filter ensures that you get clean, safe, and lead-free drinking water in your home.