You’ve probably heard of lead poisoning and know that you need to avoid lead. However, for many people, that’s where the knowledge stops. For most homes built after 1986, your risk of exposure to lead through your plumbing and drinking water are minimal. However, if you have an older well there is a chance of lead exposure. This article will go over some of the signs and symptoms of lead exposure. Additionally, we will tell you some of the risks associated with lead. If you suspect you have lead plumbing, it is important to have the system updated as soon as possible.
What is Lead?
Lead is a chemical element, a soft and malleable heavy metal with a low melting point. This, paired with its density, made it a popular building material for centuries – Use of lead even dates back to Ancient Rome! Because lead has a resistance to oxidation (rusting), it was popularly used in many applications such as plumbing, paints, batteries, bullets, solder, and numerous other industrial applications. However, during the late 19th century, it became clear that lead had toxic qualities. As a heavy metal, lead acts as a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues, bones and interferes with neurological activity and enzymes. Brain damage, growth defects, and behavioral problems can manifest when lead poisoning is present.
Can Lead Be Safe?
The EPA is responsible for setting a maximum contaminant level that outlines acceptable levels of contaminants in one’s drinking water supply. The maximum level varies by contaminant and is based on the relative health risks involved with exposure. Some contaminants are relatively safe even in proportionally large amounts, but what about lead? Unlike many other common potential contaminants, there is absolutely no safe level of lead in drinking water. The maximum contaminant level of lead is zero.
Because lead accumulates in the body over time, its effects only worsen. Even if a small amount of lead is ingested, over time, the toxicity reaches critical levels and can lead to severe and sudden lead poisoning. Because lead is so dangerous, you must give special consideration to children. Because they are smaller, the amount of lead needed to present a danger to them is much smaller.
The Effects of Lead Poisoning
While children are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning, everyone is susceptible to it. Some of the most common side effects of lead poisoning in children include hyperactivity, impaired hearing, anemia, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and slowed growth. In adults, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems can be present, often in the form of systemic numbness, and hearing and vision problems can manifest early on. In severe cases, seizures can precede a coma or death. Pregnant women are also at particular risk, as lead can cross the placental barrier and expose the developing child to lead.
As you can see, the dangers to lead present in your water system are very real. If you have an older home, it is imperative you verify whether the pipes are lead or not to protect yourself and your family.