Tips to Protect Your Household from Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

With water emergencies in Flint, Michigan, and now Sebring, Ohio, many homeowners are looking for ways to guarantee the safety of their drinking water from lead contamination. Lead exposure in excess of US EPA guidelines is a concern because it can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells, especially in populations that are more vulnerable to lead poisoning, including young children, infants, and pregnant women. The maximum contaminant level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion, and any levels exceeding that limit are considered unsafe. (US EPA, Table of Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants, December 2015).

Typically, lead enters the water after it leaves the local treatment plant, or residential well, making the source of contamination the individual home’s plumbing. Lead contamination is often found in homes with lead pipes, fixtures, and solder, and is caused by the corrosion of plumbing materials. This corrosion is more likely if the water has high acidity or low mineral content.

Though the Lead and Copper Rule requires water treatment systems to make drinking water less corrosive in an effort to prevent lead and copper contamination, plumbing materials containing lead can still be a source of contamination.  According the US EPA, “Lead-contaminated drinking water is most often a problem in houses that are either very old or very new… Plumbing installed before 1930 is most likely to contain lead. Copper pipes have replaced lead pipes in most residential plumbing. However, the use of lead solder with copper pipes is widespread.” (US EPA, Actions You Can Take to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water, June 1993).

The only way to ensure that lead is not entering your household water is to have your water tested. Lead cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled when dissolved in drinking water. The US EPA recommends sending samples to a certified laboratory for analysis. 

Alloway is a certified laboratory for lead analysis. The cost for a homeowner to test for lead is $25.00. This cost includes shipping the sample bottle to all Ohio locations. Alloway provides instructions for collecting the sample, however, homeowners can also choose to have an experienced field technician perform the sampling. The cost of sampling is determined on a case-by-case basis, so please contact Julie Bigford at for a quote.

If you believe that lead contamination is present in your drinking water, the US EPA offers guidelines to help reduce the lead content, including:

  • Flushing the pipes before consuming the water – When water sits stagnate in pipes, lead can leach into the water supply.
  • Use cold water for consumption – Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.
  • Clean and remove any debris from faucet aerators – Aerator screens can trap sediment or debris from the corrosion of leaded solder. Simply remove the aerator and rinse off the build-up using a toothbrush to assist in the cleaning.
  • Replace lead service lines and plumbing products with lead-free faucets and plumbing components – If your water shows high lead contamination, this is the best way to guarantee reduced exposure.
  • Consider alternative sources or treatment of water – Aside from replacing the plumbing products causing lead contamination, the use of bottled water or a water filter certified for effective lead reduction maybe the only other alternatives.
  • Get information on your local drinking water system's water quality – The Consumer Confidence Report is an annual water quality report delivered by community water systems to their customers. These reports are a valuable source of information regarding water contamination. 

For further information on sources and treatment of lead contamination in drinking water, visit the US EPA website

For more information about the services Alloway provides to determine the presence of lead contamination, view the news stories in the sidebar gallery.