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Health Effects of Lead in Drinking Water

For many years, Flint, Michigan residents suffered from lead poisoning in their water supply. In 2016, USA Today Network investigated water systems in all 50 states to see what other areas also had lead poisoning. The study found that there were 2,000 more water systems across all 50 states that also had high levels of lead contamination.

While Flint is now recovering, there are still homes that don’t have clean water to drink. Lead contamination results in significantly dangerous health problems. If you notice that your water smells, tastes bad, and looks discolored, you may have lead in your water.

Health Risks with Lead in Drinking Water

The EPA is required by the Safe Drinking Water Act to measure the level of contaminants in all drinking water and ensure that there are no adverse health effects. The EPA has stated that the maximum contaminant level for lead is absolutely zero. This is because of its toxicity and the dangerous health effects on humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that public health actions must be taken when 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead are found in a child’s bloodstream. However, children aren’t the only ones who suffer from health problems as a result of lead poisoning.

Lead in Drinking Water Risks for Children

In fact, babies and young children are most susceptible to health risks due to drinking lead, even in trace amounts. A trace amount of lead ingested by an adult doesn’t have the same risks as a child ingesting even a small amount of lead. It can lead to issues with central and peripheral nervous system responses, shorter stature, impaired hearing, learning disabilities, and poor function of blood cells.

Low levels of lead can still result in:

  •  Lower IQ
  •  Hyperactivity
  •  Delayed development
  •  Hearing problems
  •  Anemia
  •  Behavior and learning difficulties

Ingestion of larger amounts of lead can lead to seizures, coma, and death.

Lead in Drinking Water Risks for Adults

Since lead builds up in the human body over time, adults may not realize how much lead is actually in their system. It’s stored in your bones just like calcium, so ingesting even trace amounts of lead for many years can lead to dangerous health problems.

Long-term ingesting of lead can lead to the following health problems for adults:

  •  Cardiovascular disease
  •  Increased blood pressure
  •  Hypertension
  •  Lower kidney function
  •  Reproductive health conditions

In addition, pregnant women have significantly more risks when drinking contaminated water. If an adult female has ingested lead and carried it in her bones, it can lead to poor fetus development and mutations, as well as premature birth.

Lead can also be transmitted to a baby through breast milk.

Is It Safe to Shower in Lead Contaminated Water

While human skin does not absorb lead in water, it only takes a moment to open your mouth and ingest just the slightest amount of lead for it to be critical to your health. However, it’s important to know that the EPA considers it safe to shower in, though you may not like having water with lead in your home.

How to Get Rid of Lead in Your Water

If you believe that you have lead contamination in your water, the first thing to do is to test the water and talk to your local water authority. Then, you should consider a water filter that’s made to remove lead, such as the Aquasana water filtration system. Typically, these systems have multi-stage filtration that filters out 99.99% of hard minerals like lead and arsenic.