Here's what is surprising: pipes in very new homes are potentially a greater risk for lead. Some plumbers still use lead solder to join copper pipes, which exposes the water directly to lead. The risk is highest in houses that are less than five years old; after that, mineral deposits build up in the pipes that insulate the water from the lead in the solder. According to the EPA, you should assume that any building less than five years old has lead-contaminated water.
Private wells can also be contaminated by lead in pump components or the well seal. Although pipes inside a home are usually the source of lead poisoning, sometimes lead comes from old pipes in the street that supply the water to your home.
What You Can Do: Contact your local health department or water utility to find out how you can get your water tested for lead.
If the source of the lead is in your home it -- in pipes, solder, or well equipment -- and you can't afford to remove it, take other precautions.
Only use cold water for cooking or drinking -- or for making baby formula -- because hot water is more likely to contain higher lead levels. If you haven't used a faucet in the last six hours, flush it out for one to two minutes before drinking or cooking with it. The longer water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it can absorb.
You can also consider a filter that has been proven to remove lead by an independent testing organization, like NSF international.
Other Tips for Reducing Lead Poisoning Risks
If there's lead in your home -- or there might be -- taking some simple precautions can reduce your child's risks.
- Keep your home clean. Try to control dust in your house. Regularly wipe it up with a wet sponge or rag, especially in areas where friction might create dust from paint, like drawers, windows, and doors.
- Don't track lead in from outside. Take off your shoes as you enter the house.
- Keep your child's hands clean. Many children who get lead poisoning transfer lead from their hands to their mouths. Get in the habit of washing your child's hands frequently.
- Wash toys, pacifiers, and bottles regularly. Anything that goes in your child's mouth needs to be clean.
- Eat a healthy diet. Children who eat healthier diets seem to absorb less lead than children who don't.
- Make sure your kids have regular lead tests. Since lead poisoning has no symptoms, it’s the only way to make sure that they haven't been affected.