Lead is a common metal found in the environment. Common sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint, household dust, soil, and some plumbing materials and fixtures. Lead can also be found in other household items such as pottery, makeup, toys, and even food. Lead paint was outlawed in 1978, but dust from homes that still have lead paint is the most common source of exposure to lead. Therefore, washing your children’s hands and toys often can help limit their contact with dirt and dust potentially containing lead.
Lead can also be found in water, though at much lower levels. The United States has a Lead and Copper Rule federal regulation which limits the concentration of lead and copper allowed in public drinking water at the consumer's tap. This regulation also limits the permissible amount of pipe corrosion occurring due to the water itself. Under the Lead and Copper Rule, 90% of water samples tested are required to be under the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) require public water systems that exceed the lead action level of 15 ppb to provide notification to consumers.
The water provided by Danvers Water Division is lead-free when it leaves the water treatment facilities. Local distribution pipes that carry the water to your community are made mostly of cast iron and cement lined ductile iron, and therefore do not add lead to water. However, lead can get into tap water through lead piping, lead solder used in plumbing, and some brass faucets and fixtures used in the home. Even though the use of lead solder was banned in the U.S. in 1986, it still might be present in older homes.
During the 2018 annual water sampling period (34 homes tested), 88.2% of homes participating in the Lead and Copper Rule tested below the action level for lead. All the samples in the 88.2% were below 10 ppb with 40% of those samples having no lead detected at all. Danvers Water Division found levels of lead above the action level in drinking water in 4 homes during this monitoring period. Danvers has worked with engineers and has adjusted our corrosion control treatment to reduce the possible corrosion and exposure to lead in drinking water and will be performing more frequent testing of lead in drinking water.
The corrosion or wearing-away of these lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, particularly if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use. Therefore, water that has been sitting in household pipes for several hours, such as in the morning, or after returning from work or school, is more likely to contain lead if it is present in plumbing. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in the water. If high levels of lead are found in drinking water, water may typically contribute up to 20 percent of a person’s exposure to lead. However, infants who consume mostly formula mixed with lead-containing water, can receive up to 60 percent of their exposure from water.
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother's bones, which may affect brain development. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life.
The easiest way to reduce the possible exposure of lead in drinking water is to flush your cold water before consumption. If your water has been sitting for several hours, run the water until it is consistently cold-this usually takes about 15-30 seconds-before drinking or cooking with it. This flushes water which may contain lead from pipes. For additional information, please visit www.danversma.gov/lead or call the Danvers Water Treatment Plant at (978) 774-5054 if you have any questions.