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Lead is a naturally occurring metal that for most of the 20th century was used regularly as a component of paint, piping (including water service lines), solder, brass, and until the 1980s, as a gasoline additive. We no longer use lead in many of these products, but older products - such as paints and plumbing fixtures in older houses - that contain lead remain. EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that lead paint (and the contaminated dust and soil it generates) is the leading source of lead exposure in older housing.
While lead is rarely present in water coming from a treatment plant, it can enter tap water through corrosion of some plumbing materials.
A number of aggressive and successful steps have been taken in recent years to reduce the occurrence of lead in drinking water.
In 1986, Congress amended the national Safe Drinking Water Act to prohibit the use of pipe, solder, or flux containing high lead levels.
The Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988 led schools and day-care centers to repair or remove water coolers with lead-lined tanks. EPA provided guidance to inform and facilitate their action.
Since the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule (1991), many community drinking water systems are required to actively manage the corrosivity of water distributed to customers. In addition, community water systems conduct routine monitoring at selected houses where lead service lines and lead solder exist. If more than 10 percent of the homes tested have elevated lead levels (defined as more than 15 parts per billion), water providers must notify their consumers via several means. They must also take steps to reduce the problem, including improving corrosion control and possibly replacing lead service lines that contribute to lead contamination.
You can't see, smell, or taste lead in your water. Testing at the tap is the only way to measure the lead levels in your home or workplace. If you choose to have your tap water tested, be sure to use a properly certified laboratory. Testing usually costs between $20 and $100.
Did you know that having your electrical ground wire connected to your plumbing can increase your risk of corrosion and potentially worsen your water quality? It's also prohibited in our Rules and Regulations, Section 13.9 Ground Wire Attachments. If you have questions about whether your electrical service is grounded to your water line, contact a licensed electrician.