Lead contamination in your drinking water
Is Your Water in Nebraska Lead Free?
Most homeowners already know that lead contamination in their water supply can have grave consequences. However, while lead fittings and pipes have not been commonly used in Nebraska for decades, it is possible that your home is at risk of lead contamination from the brass fittings used for your plumbing.
Although you may not have lead pipe work in your home, brass is used in almost all fittings for residential and commercial water distribution systems. Almost every household faucet, valve, well pump and plumbing fitting is manufactured with parts made from brass. Lead is added to the brass to aid in casting the component, and it is possible for this lead to leach into your water supply.
Lead in Your Drinking Water… how does it get there?
Lead contamination in household drinking water is principally the result of corrosion of materials used during plumbing installation, such as lead solder, bronze or brass. The amount of lead which is attributable to corrosion depends on numerous factors including the amount of time the water is left in contact with the surface, the age of the materials, the method of manufacture and the corrosiveness or pH of the water. As lead does not alter the appearance, odor or the taste of your water, this could mean that lead is actually contaminating your water supply, potentially compromising the health of you and your family without you even knowing it.
The Amount of Lead in your Plumbing Fixtures in Nebraska:
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA) 1996 amendments determined that no plumbing fixture or product used for the repair or installation of plumbing, for human consumption, can contain more than 8% lead. However new federal regulations (NSF Standard 61, Section 9) effective January 2014, dictate that there can be no greater than 0.25% lead in any brass plumbing components, that are labeled “lead free.” But any “lead free” components which were manufactured before this date could still have up to the 8% limit.
Can Lead Free Fittings Still Contribute to Lead in Your Drinking Water?
While this level of lead may seem small (even if the lead free fittings comply with the 2014 federal regulations, they still effectively contain up to 0.25%), it can still represent a measurable lead level in your water.
Even if the fixture, fitting or device is in contact with relatively non-corrosive water, the water can be contaminated with a high lead level for a considerable amount of time after the installation. While the amount of lead, which may leach, into any home water supply from a brass fitting is not entirely related to the lead quantity in the fixture itself, the greater the amount of lead, the greater the risk of contamination.
This means that if your plumbing fixtures were repaired or installed before 2014, they are likely to have even higher amounts of lead, putting you and your family at greater risk. Since lead is not detectable by taste, odor or appearance in your water supply, it is, therefore, important to have your water tested by a certified water treatment professional. Laboratory testing is the only reliable method of determining if your water supply has been contaminated by lead leaching from your brass fittings.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state, Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices.