How Lead Gets in the Drinking Water

With the health crisis in Flint, Michigan, many Fox Valley and Wisconsin residents are wondering about the quality of their drinking water.

How does lead enter the drinking water?

How do you find out if your tap water has lead?

What should you do if you have lead in your drinking water?

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 and 1996 (SWDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the standards for public drinking water quality. The federal government created drinking water standards and monitoring in an effort to ensure clean tap water. Even with SWDA there are still issues with safe, clean tap water.

The EPA guidelines say a lead level of 15 ppb (parts per billion) or above is considered dangerous; however, any exposure to lead can cause health issues in children and adults. Adults experience kidney issues and high blood pressure and children experience delays in physical and mental development.


How Does Lead Enter Tap Water

Lead enters the water system through corrosion of household plumbing systems and the erosion of natural deposits. Lead has been found in some metal water taps and in the pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. When older fixtures corrode, lead leaches into the water supply.

The city of Flint, Michigan experienced dangerous levels of lead after switching from a Detroit water source to the Flint River. The Flint River water was more corrosive to lead pipes than the previously used water source, Lake Huron. This lead to residents of Flint experiencing high levels of lead in their blood.


How to Find Out if You have Lead in Your Water

Lead is odorless, tasteless, and you can’t see it in your drinking water. Symptoms of lead poisoning can vary from individual to individual.

Some may not experience any physical symptoms until their levels of lead are dangerous. In children, weight loss, vomiting, abdominal pain, and constipation are some of the physical symptoms. In adults, headaches, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, and joint pain are some of the physical symptoms.

If you’re concerned about lead levels, test your children and yourself for lead in your blood with your doctor.

The only way to tell for sure whether you have lead in your water is by testing your drinking water. Only a lab certified by the State of Wisconsin can provide you the accurate results that you’ll need to know what contaminants are in your tap water. With these results in hand, you can develop a plan with your water specialist to ensure the safety of your water.


What to Do If You Have Lead in Your Drinking Water

If you have unsafe lead in your tap water, here’s what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.

  • Installing a water filtration system will ensure your water is clean and safe
  • Contact your state lead program to learn more about lead prevention practices
  • Changing old fixtures and pipes


Not Sure if Your Water is Safe?



For more information on Wisconsin drinking water, click here to download our ebook The Wisconsin Water Guide