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Everything You Should Know About the Dangers of Lead in Water

Lead can be ingested from many sources, and tainted water is one of them. In the United States in the ‘70s, measures were taken to reduce the concentration of lead that could be found in the air, soil, dust, food, and tap water. But there are still individuals at risk, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of these individuals live in homes that were built before 1978, which may contain “drinking water service lines made from lead, lead solder, or plumbing materials that contain lead.”

It is important to note that most of the public water utilities in the United States comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) of 1991, but the CDC does note that some children are still at risk of consuming lead through their drinking water—those living in developing countries are even more at risk, as not all countries follow the same rules regarding exposure to lead.

There is no safe threshold for lead exposure, and when lead builds up in the body, it could result in lead poisoning. This can happen over a period of months or years, but even a small amount of lead can have a harmful effect on the health, Mayo Clinic reports. And in some cases, lead poisoning could prove fatal.

Signs and symptoms often do not manifest until there are dangerous amounts of lead in the body, which makes it hard to detect. Lead poisoning poses the most risks for children under the age of six, and the publication notes that it can affect both mental and physical development. Some signs of lead poisoning in children include irritability, abdominal pain, vomiting, learning difficulties, weight loss, and loss of appetite. In adults, symptoms include muscle and joint pain, high blood pressure, mood disorders, abdominal pain, and headaches.

How can you check if your home has lead pipes?

According to NHS Inform, some signs of lead pipes include the noise they make when tapped with a metal object; they make a dull thud, while copper and iron pipes produce a ringing noise. They are soft, and if scraped you can see a silver-colored metal appear, and unpainted lead pipes tend to be a gray color and “have rounded swollen joints where they join other pipes.”

[Image via Shutterstock]

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