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Lead is a naturally-occurring metal that was commonly used in plumbing in some older homes. Homeowners are responsible for the plumbing system inside their homes and encouraged to inspect their plumbing for lead pipes to prevent potential health concerns.

Protect your home. Check for lead pipes.

The water that leaves the treatment plant is free of lead. However, lead is sometimes present in pipes connecting older homes to the water system, or in fixtures and home plumbing. So while your water utility may adjust the water’s chemistry to minimize the possibility of lead dissolving into the water, there are additional steps you can take at home.

Good to Know

  • You are responsible for the plumbing system in your home, as well as any private portion of the water service line (the pipe that connects your home to the water meter/main).
  • If your home was built before 1988, there is a higher potential for having lead plumbing, so be sure to get your plumbing checked. You can test the pipes yourself or call in a certified plumber to inspect your service line and household plumbing for lead materials. You can also test your water for lead by purchasing an at-home drinking water test kit, available online and at most hardware stores.
  • Public water utilities must identify any remaining lead service lines in public water systems and then develop a plan to replace them. Also, they are acting on stronger monitoring and reporting requirements for potential lead exposure through drinking water.
  • Public water providers may add a corrosion control compound to drinking water to prevent both lead and copper from leaching out of pipes into water.

Lead isn’t absorbed through the skin, so there’s no need to filter your shower and bath water.

Good to Do

How can you tell if you have lead pipes?

There’s a simple way to test what kind of pipes you have, and if any are lead. Start with finding an exposed metal pipe in your home and scratch it with a key or coin:

  • If it’s orange like a penny, it’s a copper pipe.
  • If it’s dull gray, test to see if a magnet sticks to it. If so, it’s a galvanized steel pipe.
  • If it’s gray but shines brightly and a magnet does NOT stick to it, you have a lead pipe. Time to act!

Remember, a certified plumber can also inspect the service line that feeds into your home and the pipes inside your home for lead materials.

What can you do to minimize your potential exposure to lead?

If you know or you suspect that you have lead pipes, consider having them replaced. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimize your potential for lead exposure:

  • If the water in your house has not been used for several hours or overnight, run the cold water for a few minutes (or long enough to feel the temperature change) before using it for cooking or drinking. You can capture this “first-flush” water and use it on houseplants or to flush toilets.
  • Only use cold water for cooking and drinking. Lead is more likely to dissolve in hot water.
  • Remove and clean your faucet aerators every month. These are the small screens at the tips of your faucets where lead can accumulate.
  • For your drinking water, consider using a water filter that removes lead.

If you find you do have lead pipes or materials, take action to reduce your potential lead exposure, consider having your pipes replaced, and be sure to inform your water utility.

Local Water Utility Contacts

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We live in a beautiful region surrounded by water. It impacts everything from the food we eat to the fun we have as well as our economic livelihood. Our daily actions have a lasting impact and it's up to us to protect and restore our waterways. It takes a community of individuals making small changes to make a difference. Getting involved in the Bay Star programs is one way you can be part of the effort to protect our region's most defining natural resource, water.

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