Three Tried and Tested Ways to Remove Lead from Water
The presence of lead in your water is a serious health issue. In this article, read the best and most effective (and least effective) ways to remove lead from water.
Of the myriad of health issues in our modern world that we should be concerned about, one of the main ones is lead in our water.
If you find this to be the case where you live, the good news is there are ways to remove the lead.
Some are better than others, so this article will guide you through the various methods and help you choose which will work best for you.
How Does Lead Get Into Water?
Lead is a natural element and exists in many areas throughout nature. It's very common in cave systems and heavy mineral areas.
As rocks and minerals get eroded over time, lead can get washed away into soil and mixed with water, allowing it enter the water cycle and spread to various water sources.
Lead is also a common byproduct of many human activities like mining and the burning of fossil fuels. If you live near a factory or mine, you may have more lead runoff in your water than normal.
The biggest introduction of lead into your family's water supply, though, comes from the pipes themselves.
Most modern pipes today are made of copper, but any homes built before 1986 will often have lead solder and even lead pipes.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 4 million households in the US may have high traces of lead in their water supply.
Brand new pipes do not guarantee a lack of lead contamination, however, as many major cities have older public piping infrastructure that could contain high amounts of lead.
This infrastructure is so massive that it would require billions of dollars and many years to update it.
How Do You Test Your Water?
There are several ways to determine how much, if any, lead is in your water. We have an article that gives you more information on six of those ways.
The Effects of Lead in Water
While small doses of lead in your water will have minimal effect, there are a variety of serious health effects that can occur when lead is present in high doses.
The Environmental Protection Agency has identified the following effects caused by lead consumption, though the intensity of the effects depend on age and rate of contamination:
1. Hindering Early Development
Children can be very susceptible to lead and other contaminants in their water because their immune systems aren't yet fully developed.
Lead has been shown to slow down both the physical and mental development of children, decreasing their attention span and even impacting their learning ability.
2. Damaging Effects Later in Life
For adults exposed to long-term lead contamination, physical effects can be more drastic than with children, while the mental impacts are usually less serious.
Lead contamination in adults can result in kidney damage, high blood pressure, and other health problems.
Three Effective Ways to Remove Lead from Water
The list below explains three methods of removing lead recommended by the CDC. Each of the methods has different strengths and weaknesses based on their ease and effectiveness.
1. Reverse Osmosis
A reverse osmosis device is a powerful filter that attaches to your faucets and ranks as the most effective lead-removal method that's still easy to use.
Reverse-osmosis filters are basically semipermeable membranes designed to latch onto particulates of all sizes.The filters catch virtually 100% of lead and other contaminants, collecting the water in a tank and sending the contaminants down the drain.
Reverse osmosis filters are inexpensive and easy to clean. Since they attach to your faucets and use the flow of the water to power their effect, they consume no additional energy.
Also, reverse-osmosis systems have few moving parts and last a long time, keeping waste to a minimum.
2. Carbon Filtration
Carbon filtration is another form of lead removal that uses the power of filters to trap contaminants from entering your water supply.
Also attached to your water faucets, carbon-filtration systems are quite effective and easy to use.
However, they lack the durability of their reverse-osmosis counterparts and tend to break down faster, meaning of course, they'll need to be replaced more often.
This becomes a major problem if you need to filter a large amount of water at once because the system may start to lose effectiveness in the middle of the process.
For everyday use, though, carbon filtration is a good option.
Distillation is the process of purifying water through boiling and re-cooling.
This process is very energy-intensive and slow, but the results are effective if you follow every step.
The distillation process also has a major problem because lead often dissolves in boiling water. To eliminate the lead, you need to completely evaporate the water and then condense the water vapor through a filter.
The setup time used in this method is high, and it will be impossible for quick and easy use around the house. This method is only recommended for large-scale operations.
A classic fix for lead in your water pipes is to flush out the pipes by running cold water through your faucet for at least two minutes. Do not use hot water because it can dissolve the lead into your water.
This method doesn't require any outside products or systems, making it very cost-effective.
However, while it does remove much of the lead from your water supply, it's far less thorough and efficient than the filter methods mentioned above.
It's also far from a permanent option, as you'll need to flush the pipes every time you don't turn on your faucet for an extended period of time.
A Drastic Method
The most drastic method is to remove any and all lead- or copper-based pipes and pipe fixtures between you and your water source and replacing them with PVC or PEX piping materials.
This could be enormously difficult, time-intensive, and expensive, depending on the size of your pipe system. If you take water from a well, the entire well may need be replaced.
On top of that, if your water comes from a farther source, the complete exchange of your pipes may be useless because your city's pipes may be made of lead.
We don't recommend this method at all.
A Clean and Healthy Future
Knowing how to detect and remove lead from water will help keep your and your family healthy, so we encourage you to make it a priority and explore the rest of our site for more vital water info.
WaterZen exists to improve your family's health by making information about the water you drink more accessible, straightforward, and easy-to-understand. We do this by providing clear, simple water-quality information for your area based on data from your local water provider, unbiased comparisons, health standards, and expert opinions.
The way we see it, when you're informed about the quality of your water and then empowered to protect your family (and your community), you've achieved "water zen".