Countless people throughout the country, including in places like Indianapolis, Indiana, face the risk of lead contaminating their tap water. Lead, a neurotoxin, can harm the cognitive abilities of people, especially the developing brains of the young.
In many cities, including Indianapolis, some pipes that carry water from the streets to homes are made of lead. Essentially, they act as lead straws, introducing lead into the water that people drink.
Lead in the water constitutes a severe public health crisis, with no safe level of lead exposure. Lead piping can be found in almost every community, but it is most commonly observed in low-income communities, as seen in some high-profile cases featured in the news.
Due to the gravity of the problem, lawmakers and municipalities throughout Indiana and across the country are actively removing lead pipes and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives. In the meantime, homeowners can take steps to determine if their homes have a lead service line.
Steps to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water
If you find that you have lead in your water and it is not possible to have the lead service pipes replaced in the short term, there are some steps that you can take that may reduce the lead in your drinking water. First, run your water. Before you drink water from the pipes, flush the pipes before taking a shower, washing dishes, or doing laundry. The amount of time needed to flush your pipes will vary based on the length of the lead service line. You can speak to your water utility company for recommendations about flushing times in your community.
Use cold water. Only use cold water for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula. Remember, just because you boil water does not mean that you remove the lead from it.
Regularly clean the aerator. This is the screen on your faucet. Sediment particles can collect in the aerator. They could lead to larger amounts of lead in your water. Also, use a filter that is certified to remove lead. Ensure that the filter is properly installed and used. When a cartridge expires, it becomes less effective at removing lead. Do not run hot water through the filter.
The Dangerous Effect of Lead in Water
Fetuses, infants, and young children are vulnerable to lead. Exposure to lead at a young age can lead to behavioral effects and physical defects in children. In children, low levels of exposure to lead have been linked to damage to the peripheral and central nervous systems. It can cause children to have a shorter stature, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing.
Lead is also dangerous for pregnant women. Lead can accumulate in the body over time. It gets stored in the bones with calcium. During pregnancy, lead will be released from the bone as maternal calcium and can find its way into the bones of the developing fetus. This is especially true if a woman does not have sufficient dietary calcium. It can also cross the placental barrier, directly affecting the fetus. This can lead to premature birth and reduced growth of the fetus.
While the effects of lead are more pronounced in children, lead can also harm adults. An adult who’s exposed to lead may suffer from decreased kidney function, cardiovascular effects, and reproductive problems. For this reason, homeowners should take steps to ensure that they do not have lead piping in their homes. The following are some ways to accomplish this.
Contact Your Water Utility Company
Your water utility company is a good source of information for identifying the materials that make up your home’s water service line. Unfortunately, some utility companies may not have complete records on the materials used, making the process of finding lead lines a challenge. Historical records by the municipality can also be hit and miss. Some communities never used lead lines, while others continued to install lead service lines until they were outlawed in the mid-1980s. If your utility company tells you that the service line contains no lead or was made with a different material, insist on written proof.
Ask For Documentation
If you feel that the answers you get from your utility company are not clear regarding whether or not your home has lead pipes, review the documentation pertaining to your home. Look for key factors such as the year your home was built or the year your home first got water service. Pay attention to the year your home was renovated or when a new house was built on land with pre-existing water service.
Some documentation to review includes tax records, building permits, and real estate listings. In most cases, your home first received water service in the year it was built. However, some communities may have private wells used before connecting to the public water system. If your home was built after 1988 with a new water connection, it is unlikely that you have a lead service line. However, if your property first received water service before 1988, you might have a lead service line, even if the home was replaced or remodeled later.
During a home inspection, a professional contractor will inspect where the service line enters the home, either in a crawlspace or in the basement, usually before the shut-off valve. After locating where the service line comes into the house near the main shut-off valve, they will inspect a small visible piece of the service line. By gently scratching the surface of the pipe with a coin, they can determine if the pipe is lead or not.
If the scratched area appears shiny silver, your pipe may be lead. Magnets do not stick to lead pipes. If the scratched area is copper-like in appearance, then the service line is copper. Magnets do not stick to copper pipes. If the scratched area stays a dull gray and a magnet sticks to the surface, your service line is likely galvanized steel and not lead.
You can have your local water supplier test your home’s water. If that’s not an option, you can purchase a lead testing kit from a home improvement store. Having your water tested by professionals will produce the best, most accurate results.
Homeowners who opt to test the home water themselves need to do it very carefully and follow instructions. They want to draw the very first water. The very first water coming out of the pipes is the water that has been sitting there overnight. If your pipes are contaminated, the first water coming out of your pipes in the morning will have the highest accumulation of toxins.
Samples can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. One of the most valuable and reliable testing sites is a certified lab like those found on the EPA website.
Working With the Only Plumbing Company You Need in Indianapolis
As a leading plumbing company in Indianapolis, Hope Plumbing commits to providing our customers peace of mind. Whether tackling emergency repairs or scheduled maintenance, we possess the tools and expertise to accomplish the job correctly. We take pride in employing certified NATE technicians and have garnered several awards recognizing the quality of our work in the community.
Our services encompass drain cleaning and the installation, repair, and maintenance of water heaters and water softeners. We conduct leak detection, install sump pumps, perform plumbing inspections, and install reverse osmosis systems. When you require plumbing services in Indianapolis and the surrounding community, reach out to Hope Plumbing. Experience firsthand what it’s like to collaborate with a local, honest group of plumbers specializing in excellent customer service without delays.