Lead is a heavy metal, with the chemical symbol of Pb. Lead rose in popularity due to its attributes such as high density, high malleability and low cost. It was used in the production of many consumer products like paint, plumbing materials and ammunition until lead was found to be harmful to human health if ingested or inhaled. Lead is a toxin that accumulates in the body over time and can cause severe damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system.
Lead in Drinking Water
Lead can enter drinking water through the corrosion of your home's plumbing materials and water lines connecting your home to a water main. Lead solder was banned in the U.S. in 1988. The Lead in Drinking Water fact sheet provides more detailed information.
Ohio law includes requirements related to lead and copper for public water systems and certified laboratories. Ohio EPA reviews standards for lead and copper monitoring, requires timely public notification of monitoring results and ensuring public water systems optimize corrosion control treatment. For details, see the Lead and Copper in Public Water Systems webpage.
Ways to reduce lead exposure to drinking water
Test your water for lead
- Ohio EPA Certified Labs for Lead and Copper
- Contact your utility to see if you are eligible to participate in their compliance sampling.
- Contact a professional plumber to determining whether your home’s plumbing may contain lead.
- Consider replacing your home's plumbing with non-lead materials where possible
see if your home has a lead service line connecting to the water main
- Work with community and water utility officials if your home has a lead service line. It's important to replace these lines in their entirety.
- Flush the water before drinking.
- If you have lead water fixtures, lead plumbing materials or a lead service line, flush any time the water has been motionless for four hours or more.
- If you have a lead service line, flush your water until the line is cleared — about 30 seconds to three minutes.
- If you have lead fixtures but no lead service line, flush the tap for approximately 30 seconds to three minutes.
- Clean faucet aerators regularly.
- Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula.
- Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily in hot water.
- Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water can increase the concentration.
- Consider a water filter.
Contact Your Water Supplier for Information About Your Drinking Water
Public water systems are required to monitor their water regularly for contaminants. When a system doesn't meet a standard, consumers are notified. Water systems are also required to provide customers with a Consumer Confidence Report each year. Details about these reports, along with details about monitoring and reporting requirements may be found on the Public Water Systems webpage.
In addition, many communities provide information about lead and drinking water to customers online. Contact your water supplier to find out what information they have available. Here are a few examples.
The Ohio Department of Health has information on lead poisoning through their licensure, adult lead and child lead programs. Many local health departments also have information for residents - contact them directly to find out what information they provide. Here are a few examples.
Lead in Your Home
Lead has been found in paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition and cosmetics. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website provides information to help learn about possible sources and remedies for lead exposure in private residences. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's healthy homes webpage also has helpful information for residents.
Lead in Your School
The Lead Plumbing Fixture Replacement Assistance Grant Program helped reimburse for the sampling and replacement of drinking fountains, water coolers, plumbing fixtures, and limited connected piping. The program is no longer in effect.
U.S. EPA's 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Toolkit provides tools for schools, child care facilities, states and water systems to implement voluntary lead in drinking water testing programs.