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Lead Poisoning

How Much Lead Is Too Much?

The EPA says action should be taken when lead levels reach 15 parts per billion or higher. If tests show the lead level in your household water is in the area of 15 ppb or higher, The EPA suggests you do as much as possible to reduce lead levels, especially if there are young children in the home.

What Is Lead Poisoning?

February 2, 2004,

Too much lead can result in lead poisoning, which affects essential physical functions. It can damage nearly every body system, including the brain, the nervous system, and digestive tract. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, seizures, coma and even death.
Children younger than six, women of child-bearing age and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable.

The health risks of lead include:

In Children:

· Nervous system damage

· Learning disabilities

· Speech and language problems

· Decreased muscle development and decreased coordination

· Hearing damage

In Adults:

· High blood pressure

· Nervous system disorders

· Digestive problems

· Memory and concentration

· Muscle and joint pain

In addition, lead poisoning can pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn fetus and can cause fetal brain damage.

Copyright 2004 by

How Lead Gets Into The Water Supply

February 2, 2004

Lead in home water supplies is most frequently tracked to the home's own plumbing. Lead in pipes or the solder that joins pipe can leach into the water supply. Homes with copper pipes may still find lead in the solder used to join the pipes. Brass faucets and fittings can also contain lead. Lead can also be found in some pipes that lead from the water treatment plant to the home.

Your home is most at risk for high lead levels if:

Your home has faucets or fittings of brass which contains some lead
your home or water system has lead pipes
your home has copper pipes with solder and the house is less than five years old, or you have naturally soft water, or water often sits in the pipe.

Copyright 2004 by

Testing For Lead

February 2, 2004

You can't see, smell or taste lead in the water supply. You should have your water tested for lead by a certified laboratory. (Lists are available from your state or local drinking water authority). Testing costs between $20 and $100.

Be especially suspicious if you have lead pipes or soldering in your home.

Testing is especially important in high-rise buildings where flushing might not work Water samples from the tap will have to be collected and sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis.

However, be wary of "free" water testing that is provided by the salesperson to determine your water quality; many tests are inaccurate or misleading. Research the reputation and legitimacy of the company or sales representative.

Protective Action To Combat Lead

February 2, 2004

If you think your water might have lead in it, the EPA says there are actions you can take to minimize its impact:

Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Hot water is more likely to flush lead from pipes and soldering.

Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking, especially if water hasn't flowed from that tap in a few hours. You must do this for each tap you use - flushing water from the kitchen sink, won't help the water quality coming from another room of the house.

Once you have flushed a tap, you might fill one or more bottles with water and put them in the refrigerator for later use that day.
Boiling water will not remove lead

A number of filters claim to reduce lead levels in water. However, the EPA suggests you check the manufacturer's claims and make sure they are certified by an independent agency. NSF is one non-profit organization that evaluates filter quality.

More information is available from the EPA's Web site.

The EPA also supports a Safe Drinking Water Hotline. You can reach that service by calling (800) 426-4791.

News: Water Pipe Lead Poisoning of Drinking Water

BWL to replace lead piping to 14,000 Lansing homes

By Tom Lambert

Lansing State Journal, July 11, 2004

Lansing's water supplier has identified 14,000 homes with potential lead poisoning problems and plans to replace piping going into the homes in the next 10 years.

Until Friday, however, the Board of Water and Light had no plans to warn homeowners that the water they are drinking could be dangerous.

Now it will. People living in all 14,000 homes will be urged to flush their water systems each morning and avoid drinking and cooking with hot water from their taps.

The utility has replaced lead piping at several thousand homes over the past 12 years but gave owners only a few weeks notice that it would go into their homes to change the pipes - which run underground and connect to the homes' water heaters - to copper.

But after inquiries into the policy by the State Journal, utility officials on Friday decided they would hold public meetings and send letters this week notifying homeowners whether they have lead pipes. The letters won't say when the pipes will be replaced.

When asked why residents weren't told earlier, Sanford Novick, BWL general manager, said: "Our position is, this isn't an immediate crisis, this is a long-term situation. It's not like people are going to be poisoned to death starting today."

That angers Emily Bourne, who lives on the south side with her husband and 3-month-old son, Aiden.

"What else aren't they telling us?" said Bourne, who drank tap water for five months of her pregnancy. She now uses bottled water.


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Most susceptible

Those most at risk from lead exposure are children 6 and younger and unborn children. Prolonged exposure to lead weakens the central nervous system and can cause learning disabilities and other problems.

The BWL has replaced 2,000 to 3,000 lead pipes in Lansing since 1992, said Clyde Dugan, the utility's director of special projects.

But with people becoming more aware of the dangers of lead exposure, the utility decided this year to step up its replacement initiative and replace the remaining 14,000 pipes over 10 years, at a cost of $30 million to $40 million.

Bill Maier, a BWL water quality analyst, said a task force was formed in early May to accomplish that plan.

"We are replacing these pipes because it could be a problem down the line since they deteriorate over time," said Maier, also a task force member. "We don't have to do this, but we are. It's what our customers expect of us."

Citing confidentiality concerns, the utility wouldn't release the list of the 14,000 homes affected.

The BWL put an additional $2 million toward the project in this year's budget. In the past, it took about $500,000 annually out of its $8 million water utilities capital budget for the work.

The utility has tested about 290 Lansing homes for lead exposure in the past 12 years, Maier said. He said less than 10 percent of the tests came back with more than 15 parts per billion of lead - the limit state and federal governments have set before a utility has to address the issue.

He wouldn't say specifically how many homes exceeded 15 parts per billion.

Safe to drink

"Our water is safe to drink," Maier said. "People shouldn't be worried."

Jim Cleland, assistant chief of the state Department of Environmental Quality's water division, confirmed that the Board of Water and Light wasn't required by the state to replace the lead piping.

He also said that it isn't difficult for homeowners to see if they have lead pipes going into their homes.

"You should be able to see the pipe coming from the outside wall and connecting to your water meter, which is usually in the basement," he said.

Cleland added that just because homes don't have lead pipes doesn't mean the owners are in the clear.

"Lead is an alloy of brass - so fixtures in your home plumbing system, which could be faucets, valves or other connections, could lead to a problem," he said. "People should keep that in mind."

To reduce lead in drinking water

· Let the tap water run for at least 30 seconds to a minute before drinking it. The more time water has been sitting in your home's pipes, the more lead it may contain. Anytime the water in a faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, flush the pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get.

· Don't use hot water from the tap for cooking, drinking or making baby formula. Use only cold water.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Reaction Time to Fixing Lead in Schools' Water Is Disputed

October 29, 2004, By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN (The New York Times)


The chairman of the State Assembly Education Committee charged yesterday that New York State health and education officials failed to follow up on reports that dangerous levels of lead had been detected in drinking water at 120 schools and day care facilities.

State officials disputed the charge and said that problems had been corrected at all but eight of the schools.

The chairman, Assemblyman Steven Sanders, said that regulators distributed a survey in April to 684 schools and day care centers, and that results tallied in August found that the lead levels in water from fountains and sinks at 120 locations were high enough to require action under federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

In a blistering attack on the state's Health and Education Departments, Mr. Sanders charged that the agencies "ignored the findings entirely and did absolutely nothing to follow up." He also criticized the agencies for asking schools and day care centers only whether their lead levels exceeded the federal standard of 20 parts per billion and not demanding the specific results.

Mr. Sanders also complained that 91 schools had checked a box on the survey saying they needed assistance on lead in drinking water but had received no response. He said he would pursue legislation mandating periodic lead testing at all schools.

State officials said that Mr. Sanders was being unnecessarily alarmist and that parents had little reason for concern. "All but a handful of the schools identified as having levels that exceeded the standard have taken corrective action," said William Van Slyke, a spokesman for the Health Department. "This has actually been a wonderfully successful effort by the two state agencies."

Mr. Van Slyke accused Mr. Sanders of grandstanding ahead of Election Day. "This is an egregious example of election eve hysteria," he said.

Repeated exposure to hazardous lead levels can result in lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible neurological damage, including learning disabilities, hearing loss and other problems. Mr. Sanders, a Democrat from Manhattan, called the agencies "shamefully negligent" for failing to follow up on the survey and request detailed information from schools.

State officials said the survey was distributed only to schools in areas where questions had been raised about the public water system and where officials would have been monitoring the situation. And they noted that the survey asked schools: "What follow-up actions have been taken as a result of the sampling?"

Officials said that even before the survey was distributed to 1,700 schools in April, the state had worked with federal officials to check the water in the largest school districts, including New York City, where 33,857 samples were taken from the city's roughly 1,200 schools.

In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael E. Burke, the director of the Bureau of Public Water Supply Protection, part of the state's Health Department, reported that "in New York City, mitigative measures were taken at outlets in 370 schools."

In Syracuse, Mr. Burke reported, 2,351 samples were taken from 370 schools, and problems were addressed at 289 outlets.

More than 400 of the state's 5,000 schools operate and maintain their own drinking water supply and are required to test for lead.

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     1. Read Phil’s five plain-English,
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     3. Get FREE mold advice, mold help, and/or answers to your mold questions, by emailing mold expert Phillip Fry at You can also email pictures of your mold problems in jpeg file format as email attachments.

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