How to test for lead in your water

THE RISKS

Rusting lead or copper pipes or outdated fixtures are usually the source of the contamination.

Following the alarming events in Flint, Michigan where the entire water delivery system was found to have lead, water districts and home owners have been putting extra precautions into place.

Q: What’s so bad about lead and copper?

A: Exposure to lead can cause behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children, and kidney ailments in adults. Short-term exposure to copper can cause gastrointestinal distress, while long-term exposure can damage the liver or kidneys.

Q: How do these chemicals get into school water?

A: The problems mostly can be traced to aging buildings with lead pipes, older drinking fountains and water fixtures that have parts made with lead. The average age of school buildings dates to the 1970s. Lead pipes were banned in 1986. Brass fixtures were ordered to be virtually lead-free in 2014.

Q: Do schools and day care centers have to test for lead?

A: Most schools are not required to do testing. Only schools and day care centers that operate their own water systems — that’s about one of every ten — are required to test for lead, under federal rules. The 90,000 public and private schools and day care facilities relying on treated water from municipal systems are not required to test, although some do, in the interest of safety.

LEAD TESTING: DO IT YOURSELF

The only way to know if there is lead in your water is to test it.

There are a number of do it yourself test kits you can buy at your local hardware store. Kits range from $10 to $50.

Most kits require you to send your results away to a lab, however there are kits that will give you immediate results.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of certified labs in California for testing drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency has an entire section dedicated to lead in water.

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