Concerned about drinking lead-contaminated water? If you think your water contains lead, act fast – lead is highly toxic and can cause serious health problems.
In this guide, we’ve shared the most effective methods of removing lead from your water supply.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Reverse osmosis, water distillation, and NSF 53-certified filters are all the best water treatment methods to remove lead from drinking water.
- Lead gets into water through lead service lines, pipes, plumbing fixtures, and faucets, and (more rarely) from industrial pollution.
- You can detect lead in your water by checking your pipes for lead and conducting a drinking water test.
Table of Contents
- ✅ How to Remove Lead from Water: Best 3 Methods
- 🔎 How to Choose The Right Lead Water Filter
- 🤔 How Does Lead Get Into A Drinking Water Supply?
- 🩺 What Are The Health Risks of Lead in Drinking Water?
- 📥 How Much Lead is Safe In Tap Water?
- 📊 Factors Affecting Lead Risk In Water
- 🧪 How to Detect Lead in Water
- ⚠️ Does Boiling Water Remove Lead?
- 📉 How Else to Reduce Lead Exposure
- ❔ Frequently Asked Questions
✅ How to Remove Lead from Water: Best 3 Methods
Here are the best three methods to remove lead from water:
☑️ Lead removal: Up to 99.9%
Water distillation takes place in a distiller, a countertop machine that purifies water through evaporation and condensation.
When water evaporates, most of its impurities are unable to vaporize with the water particles, so they’re left behind in the boiling chamber. Lead is one of these contaminants.
Water then condenses back into liquid form and drips into a clean, separate container.
- A distiller system is one of the best water treatment methods that removes lead entirely from your water supply.
- Distillers are affordable and require minimal maintenance.
- Distillation takes hours. 1 gallon of distilled water takes 4-6 hours to produce.
- A distiller needs electricity to operate.
☑️ Lead removal: Up to 99.1%
Reverse osmosis filtration systems also purify water, offering a similar outcome to water distillation.
In a reverse osmosis system, water is forced through several filter stages and a reverse osmosis membrane. The membrane’s pores are tiny, rejecting most contaminants, including lead particles.
The rejected contaminants are flushed down a drain in the system at a constant rate.
- The reverse osmosis process is highly effective and provides very thorough filtration.
- An RO system provides much faster purification than distillation – RO purification is almost instant.
- Reverse osmosis systems waste water.
- This filtered water solution is more expensive than other options.
NSF 53 Certified Filters
☑️ Lead removal: Up to 99.0%
An increasing number of drinking water filters now have an NSF 53 certification, for lead removal.
There are numerous different types of NSF/WQA 53-certified filters, including carbon pitcher filters, countertop systems, and whole-home filters.
👨🔧 NSF is short for the National Sanitation Foundation, a leading authority in water filtration standards. Water filters might also be certified by the Water Quality Association certification, another leading voice of the water treatment industry.
The NSF provides certifications for the following filter types:
- Gravity pitchers/carafes
- Faucet-mounted filters
- Countertop filter units connected to a faucet
- Under-sink water filters
- Refrigerator filters
If a product is certified by the NSF for Standard 53, it means it has been third-party tested to assure that its lead-filtering capabilities are as effective as advertised.
- NSF 53-certified filters are expert-recommended – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using these filters to reduce lead.
- A third-party certified water filter offers guaranteed lead reduction – you don’t just have to take the manufacturer’s word for it. Certifications are especially important for activated carbon or granulated carbon filters, which aren’t guaranteed to offer lead removal.
🔎 How to Choose The Right Lead Water Filter
So, which lead water filter is right for you? It depends on your personal preferences.
When choosing a product to filter lead, consider the following things:
- Your budget
- Your installation and maintenance preferences
- Any other contaminants you want to remove
- Your water pressure/flow rate
- Your preferred speed of water filtration
Before buying a filter, read its customer reviews and see what experts have to say about the filter. Avoid cheap, poorly-made filters with a history of customer dissatisfaction.
Related: See the best filters for lead removal in 2023
🤔 How Does Lead Get Into A Drinking Water Supply?
Now you know the most important information: how to remove lead from water. If you’re interested to learn more about how lead gets into water, its health hazards, and how else to reduce your lead exposure, read on.
There are several ways that lead gets into a water supply:
- (Less common) Due to lead pollution – Areas with high industrial activity may have more lead in their water due to lead pollution. However, lead is usually removed by water utilities before being delivered to customers.
- (Most common) Due to lead service pipes – To this day, man-made water pipes are the main cause of lead in water. While the construction of new lead service pipes is now banned, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) never insisted that existing lead pipes were to be removed. Thousands of water pipes leading from municipal water suppliers to US homes still leach high levels of lead into water supplies.
- (Also common) Due to household lead pipes, lead soldering, and lead plumbing fixtures – If you live in an old property and your water pipes haven’t been upgraded for decades, lead may be leaching into your drinking water from all the pipes in your plumbing system.
🩺 What Are The Health Risks of Lead in Drinking Water?
Lead, as one of the most harmful contaminants existing today, makes drinking water dangerous – and the health risks of drinking lead-contaminated water are serious.
Lead Health Risks in Children
In young children, lead water consumption has been linked to learning disabilities, impaired hearing, nervous system damage, and poorly-functioning blood cells.
Lead in water can cause learning and behavioral issues, lower IQ, slowed growth, and anemia.
Lead Health Risks in Adults
In adults, lead from drinking water can cause decreased kidney function, cardiovascular issues, and reproductive problems. Very high levels of lead might cause lead poisoning and death.
In pregnant women, lead from water has been linked to premature birth and delayed fetal growth.
Lead can build up in the human body over time. So, the small quantities of lead in your tap water will gradually build up in your cells, which is how it causes such serious health effects.
📥 How Much Lead is Safe In Tap Water?
No amount of lead in tap water is safe. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a Maximum Contaminant Level of 0 for lead due to its ability to accumulate in the body.
This means that if you drink anything more than zero lead in your water, you’re at risk of the health effects of lead contamination. The only way to stay safe is to drink lead-free water.
📊 Factors Affecting Lead Risk In Water
So, what factors affect the risk of lead in drinking water?
- The water temperature. Lead levels are typically higher in hot water than in cold water because hot water dissolves lead more quickly.
- Contact time with lead water pipes. The amount of time that water spends in lead pipes also affects the level of lead contamination. That’s why you should flush your pipes for 5 minutes before using water for drinking if the water has sat in the pipes for more than 6 hours.
🧪 How to Detect Lead in Water
Detecting lead in water by sight, taste, or smell is impossible, since you can’t see, taste, or smell lead.
There are two common ways to detect lead contamination in your drinking water: using home lead test kits or checking your pipes for the presence of lead.
Buy A Water Test Kit
The best way to detect lead in your drinking water is to get a sample of your water tested with a DIY test kit.
A water test kit contains several test strips and a color chart. Follow the instructions to test a sample of water, then compare the color of the test strip to a color chart.
This will tell you whether or not your water contains lead, and give you a rough estimate of how much lead is present. If your water tests positive for lead, you can look at ways to remove lead at home.
👨🔬 If you’re looking for the most accurate results, opt for a water test kit that specifically tests for lead. You can see how the lead concentration in your municipal water supply compared to the EPA’s standards.
Check Your Pipes For Lead
You can also check to see if you have lead water pipes by performing a scratch test.
Gently scratch your water pipe with the flat edge of a screwdriver or a coin. If you reveal s shiny, silver surface, you probably have lead pipes.
The scratch test is a good way to get an indication of whether or not your pipes contain lead, However, we recommend hiring a plumber to conduct a professional inspection and provide a certain diagnosis.
👨🔬 Note: We DO NOT recommend using Consumer Confidence Reports from a municipal water supplier to learn about your water’s lead content. A consumer confidence report tells you everything about your water, including exactly how much lead it contains – but only immediately after it has been treated. Since most lead gets into water on its way to our homes, Consumer Confidence Reports aren’t an accurate representation of your water’s true lead content.
⚠️ Does Boiling Water Remove Lead?
You might assume that boiling water removes lead, but this isn’t the case.
When you boil water, some of the water will evaporate, which means you’ll end up with a higher concentration of lead in the same amount of water.
So, why is distillation capable of removing lead, but not boiling? Because distillation transfers water particles into a separate clean container.
📉 How Else to Reduce Lead Exposure
There are a few other ways to reduce your lead exposure at home:
- Consuming only bottled drinking water that’s certified as lead-free by independent testing.
- Only drinking or cooking with water from your cold tap.
- Removing your shoes before you enter your home to avoid carrying lead inside.
- Eating foods high in iron, protein, calcium, and vitamin C, which help decrease lead absorption.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my home has lead water pipes?
Homes built before 1986 typically use lead plumbing, so find out when your property was built. Another way to check is to examine your hot tap water and cold water pipes. Pipes made from lead are soft and dull grey, and when you scrape them with a coin, they’ll reveal a shiny silver layer. Even if your actual pipes and faucets aren’t made from lead, you may still have lead solder between the pipes.
Can drinking lead make you sick?
Yes, drinking lead in your water has high-level health concerns. Lead won’t make you sick like bacteria or viruses, but it’ll cause serious health effects if it accumulates over time in your body. Lead is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and children. Some of the potential effects of lead are physical developmental delays, behavioral problems, internal organ damage, high blood pressure, and lead poisoning.
Can activated carbon filters remove lead?
Not all carbon filters remove lead – but some can. A carbon filter’s lead reduction abilities depends on its design. Look for activated carbon filtration cartridges with NSF 53 certifications for lead reduction.
Is it okay to shower in water containing lead?
Yes, it’s okay to shower in water that contains lead. Human skin can’t absorb lead and most other heavy metals. Just make sure you don’t swallow any of your shower water.