You might be asking yourself, “How does lead get into our drinking water?” The answer is simple, but not always easy to detect. Lead enters drinking water during the corrosive process that happens to metal fixtures, particularly if the water is highly acidic, or has a low mineral content. The most common culprit is brass or chrome-plated fixtures that have lead soldering.
Lead pipes are most common in homes that were constructed before the late 1980s, at which time, safer alternatives were used in construction, and lead pipes were discontinued.
There is no safe amount of lead to ingest, as it’s an extremely toxic metal and can build in your body over time. Behavioural issues are known to occur when children, infants, and fetuses are exposed to lead, so it’s important to take the proper steps in determining whether your home has lead pipes.
Check with your local municipality or utility provider to see if they offer lead testing, such as this one offered by the City of Waterloo. These programs should always meet the Ministry of the Environment’s requirements for lead sampling of drinking water systems.
If you are concerned you have lead pipes, be sure to get a test as quickly as possible, but in the meantime, you can follow the below precautions:
1. Flush the line for several minutes before consuming or cooking with the water
2. Only use water that has sat in the pipes for 6+ hours for bathing (human skin does not absorb led, so it’s safe to wash with), or for watering plants.
3. Only drink water from cold water taps.
Remember, if lead is found in your drinking water, it is the responsibility of the property owner to pay for all costs associated with the replacement of the water system.