Inspections Unlimited - 715 Hope Ave NW Salem, OR 97304

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Serving Oregon Home Buyers, Sellers, and Real Estate Agents with Professional Certified Inspections Since 1989

Lead in Drinking Water - How do I know if I need to be concerned?

 Lead in drinking water is most often found in homes constructed before 1986.  The two most common sources for lead in drinking water are corrosion of brass or chrome plated brass faucets and fixtures and lead solder joints on copper plumbing.  In 1986, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act were implemented that state only "lead free" pipe, solder, or flux may be used in the installation or repair of public water systems or any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, which is connected to a public water system.  "Lead Free" means that solders and flux contain no more than 0.2% lead and the pipes and fittings do not contain more than 8% lead.

Testing is the only sure way to know whether there are harmful quantities of lead in your drinking water.  So what can you do in the meantime?  Flush your water faucets and pipes and use cold water for drinking water.   Lead concentration in water increases as the water sets in the plumbing and has a longer time to leach lead from the solder or plumbing fixtures. Therefore, if you make a practice of flushing the water out of your system before you use it for consumption, you will reduce the lead exposure.

Flushing Procedure:  To flush your plumbing, turn on the faucet to cold water.  Allow the water to run until the water temperature changes and becomes colder.  This is typically about the same amount of time it would take to get hot water at the faucet if you were waiting for hot water.  It is common to have the service pipe enter a home in the general location of the water heater and then be plumbed to the faucets from that point with hot and cold water.  So this timing is a good rule of thumb for getting water from the service pipe to the faucet.

What not to do:  Do not drink the first water out of the faucet.  Do not use hot water for consumption (drinking or eating) out of the tap.  Heat the water on the stove or in the microwave instead.

Testing:  Testing for lead in water should be completed by someone that is trained in the proper technique for water sampling for lead in water and then the water sample should be taken to a laboratory for analysis.  This process generally takes about 2 weeks.  Proper water sampling will include a sample from the kitchen faucet, the structure plumbing and the service pipe.  Typically, it is not necessary to sample the source water if it is provided by a water system provider as they are required to conduct regular testing.  Contact your water provider for information about their test results.  The plumbing solder joints should also be tested to help determine if they contain lead.  Additional testing could also be completed for bathroom, wet bar or other faucets used for water consumption in the residence to determine if fixtures are leaching lead into the water.  If you have well water, you may want to test the water at the well head.

Still have questions or need testing completed?  Contact us, we are happy to help you!