Lead can be found in water sources but this is primarily because it is being leached into the water from another source.  The “other” source could be a hazardous waste dump area or something as seemingly innocuous as the pipes in the supply chain for your domestic water supply (as in Washington, D.C.).  Lead can also be leaching into your water from your fixtures.  With the current Federal government standards - even “lead-free” faucets can contain up to 8% lead - some of which can be leached into the water you use in your home (your bath and your kitchen. )

What can I do?

When you purchase a home you should consider getting a full hazard assessment of the home.  In Oregon these run about $450 and cover an assessment of current and potential lead and asbestos related hazards.  The assessments can also include an analysis of lead in your water if you request it.

If you have small children in the house please make sure all sources of water are considered - specifically make sure your bath fixtures (sink and tub) and your exterior fixtures (hoses/ hose-bibs) are tested.  While there is tolerance for a minimum “low” blood lead level as a background level in children - it is my assertion that this tolerance is only accepted because people are not willing to go the distance of eliminating or considering the elimination of lead from all possible sources in the home.  Besides considering the faucets and supply lines - bathtubs and sinks should also be tested as potential sources of lead.  To my knowledge there are currently no Federal standards that require bathtubs and kitchen sinks to be lead-free (or even lead-safe for that matter!) So even sinks and bathtubs in new construction homes have the potential to be hazardous. Lead can be found in plastics, metals and enamels so almost any type of fixture is suspect. Treated wood and wood finishes (paints and some clear finishes) can also contain lead. (We have only found one sink that is guaranteed to be lead-free and this is made by American Standard.)

What did you do Tamara & Len?

We’ve taken this to an “extreme” of a sort, based on the research we have done.  Studies show that the natural background lead level for pre-industrialized humans is a BLL of .016.  Currently studies show that any BLL of 2 or greater can cause long term problems (both physical and neurological) for a child.  The Federal Government (CDC) standards/ official statements lead people to believe that any BLL of <10 is considered okay for a child - but that is simply not true/ not supported by the current research.  If you consider that a BLL of 5 micrograms per deciliter is more than 300 times the natural background level of lead found in a human - a BLL of as little as 2 (which is still 125 times the natural background level) could easily be understood to cause symptoms and problems.

As a result of this evidence and current thinking in the scientific community, I am committed to getting my children as close to a BLL 0 as possible.  In October of 2008 Cole tested at BLL .9 (point nine), A.J. tested at 1.2 (one point two) and Avi (who had the highest level after their exposure three years ago) tested 1.8 (one point eight.)  These numbers are still too high for me to accept, but much lower than what many parents (including parents in the lead advocacy community) consider acceptable background lead levels for their child.  (I retested the children the first week of December 2008 and will have the results and post them here shortly - this was after a strict one month regimen of a natural detox remedy we have been using.)

So - back to “what did we do?”  ...

In an effort to get our kids “lead-free” we had all potential sources in our home tested.  We got a water filter that purports to remove lead and we only use that for drinking water and water for cooking.  We had our kitchen sink and bathtub tested for lead with an XRF.  With an XRF anything over a reading of “one” is considered a hazard for children.  Our kitchen sink tested 48 (forty eight!) and our bath-tub also tested positive.  We got rid of the bath-tub (everyone takes showers now and the littler ones take baths in the kitchen sink) and we got the only lead-free kitchen sink we could find (the American Standard noted above.)  We discourage our children from drinking water from the fountains at school (they always get a bottled drink to take to school with them) and we NEVER let our children drink from the hose. If we have to use water from the bathroom sink (like for brushing teeth) we let it run for a good two to three minutes to clear the lines. We had my mother bring up a “prop 65” compliant kitchen faucet from California - as that complies to California standards which are much better than the Federal standards that faucets sold in Oregon and the rest of the states must comply with. We also replaced all of the plumbing line with new pex plumbing - only to learn later that this is not a completely “lead-free” solution as there is still the potential of lead exposure from the brass fittings used to connect the pex lines (it is better to install the system without using brass fittings - which is an option.)

note: 12/11/08 - text not yet complete/edited - draft comments


© 2009. Tamara Rubin,  All Rights Reserved