Lead contamination — as well as other metals that could be found in plumbing systems — presents serious risks for members in a household, especially children. Recent studies show that lead can affect children’s developing brains when it enters the body in abundance and displaces zinc and ultimately disrupts brain cell growth.
For adults, approximately 80 percent of lead that is ingested will pass through with relative ease. However, the opposite is true for children. Researchers indicate that 80 percent of the lead that enters a child is absorbed and stored in their body’s tissues.
Worse, without adequate testing, lead particles often go undetected, having no visible attributes or significant odor. According to recent findings, even when traditional piping, which is a common source of lead, is replaced by plastic, lead contamination can still occur when water passes through contaminated fittings and faucets.
It is important to educate customers about their plumbing systems and, in particular, how lead and other metals can leach into the home’s or facility’s water sources. Ask questions such as “How old is this home or building?” Older pipes usually have a greater chance of having metal deposits, such as lead, copper, zinc and iron.
Even with the best POU equipment, a lead situation can occur. We recently reached out to one expert in the field, Ivars Jaunakais, who is an analytical chemist, speaker, educator and president of Industrial Test Systems. Jaunakais explains how many people in the United States can be affected.
“Unless you live in California, you’re not restricted to have a lead-free delivery of your water through the faucet,” says Jaunakais. However, there are national guidelines for lead. The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) for Lead and Copper, 40 CFR Parts 401 and 142, promulgated in 1991, established an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in drinking water.
Fortunately, says Jaunakais, most people have water that is below those standards. “I’ve read many times that the typical average for lead in drinking water throughout the US is 1 ppb,” he notes, adding that the testing and treatment options for lead have improved over the years. One innovation that catches Jaunakais’ eye is a small charcoal filter that can be placed at the end of the customer’s drinking line. Also, reverse osmosis can be effective when treating a lead concern. “There have been such wonderful improvements in RO and don’t be surprised to see those improvements continue,” asserts Jaunakais.
Testing equipment has also improved. “Atomic absorption and more improved analytical tools allow us to better predict what we’re finding in drinking water,” says Jaunakais.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lead poisoning is estimated to affect nearly 1 million children in the United States. Even though these cases have been declining over the years as regulations on paint and other common sources of lead continue to tighten, drinking water remains as a top source today. Educating customers and presenting the facts offers an opportunity for your solutions.