Lead in Drinking Water
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Safe Drinking Water
Lead, a metal found in natural deposits, is commonly used in household plumbing materials and water service lines. The greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips and dust.
But lead in drinking water can also cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.
Lead is rarely found in source water, but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.
For more information on lead contamination, see the following links in our sidebar or the links listed below:
Local Lead Information
- Lead's Action Level
- Regulatory Information
- Compliance Help
Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act
Congress enacted the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act on January 4, 2011, to amend Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regarding the use and introduction into commerce of lead pipes, plumbing fittings or fixtures, solder and flux. The Act established a prospective effective date of January 4, 2014, which provided a three year timeframe for affected parties to transition to the new requirements.
On August 16, 2012, EPA held a public webinar with external stakeholders to discuss the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and the potential ramifications that this change of legislation may have. Participants included public utilities, government agencies, plumbing manufacturers, plumbing retailers and trade associations.
- Presentation: Lead-Free Definition Under the Safe Drinking Water Act – August 2012 (PDF) (19 pp, 117K, About PDF)
- Summary of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) (14 pp, 127K, About PDF)
This document, including revised answers to frequently asked questions, is intended to help the public understand the statutory requirements, EPA intends to further clarify and refine these and other issues related to these provisions in a future rulemaking. EPA 815-S-13-001, October 2013