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By Rossany Auceda, Iowa Department of Public Health

Is there lead in my drinking water? It is the question parents often ask us when one of their young children is lead poisoned.

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At the moment, investigations conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Health have not identified water as a primary source of lead poisoning, like lead-based paint from older homes.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the most common sources of lead in drinking water are from lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures.  In other words, lead can enter drinking water when a chemical reaction occurs in plumbing materials that contain lead.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1986. Homes with lead pipes that connect to the city’s main water system, also known as lead services lines, are typically the most significant source of lead in the water.  

For public drinking water systems, the best way to know if there is lead in your water is to have it tested or contact your local water supplier. EPA requires community water systems to provide an annual drinking water quality report or a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) to their customers. These reports provide information about your local drinking water quality.  Call your local water supplier or find your report using EPA’s CCR search tool located online at www.epa.gov/ccr.  In addition, you can contact the State Hygienic Lab (800-421-4692) for water testing kits and information on testing your water.  

If you have a lead service line, let the water run for 3-5 minutes. If you do not have a lead service line, let the water run for 30-60 seconds. The more time water has been sitting in your pipes, the more lead it may contain.  Avoid drinking water from the hot water plumbing.  In addition, use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Boiling water does not remove lead from water.

If you need more information call the Iowa Department of Public Health at 1-800-972-2026 or at (515) 281-3225.

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