Unfortunately, lead doesn’t always have an identifiable taste, smell or look. The only way to know for sure is to test.
Testing for lead at your facility is a fairly straightforward endeavor. You can have it done professionally, you can send it off to a lab, or you can use a kit and test yourself.
There are a few types of tests on the market:
- Watersafe Test Kits are easy to use and typically give you results in 10 minutes. They also test for a wide range of contaminants.
- Lead Soil Tests are used to test your soil for lead. They typically offer a simple testing process and accuracies of up to 100 parts per million.
- Photometers are a costlier option, but they are usually more accurate, easier to use and come with bells and whistles like Bluetooth® and connected apps.
If you decide to go for a watersafe testing kit, make sure you find one that’s both laboratory certified and uses an EPA-based method for testing. Most tests will include a dropper, a vial and test strips. You’ll take water from a source within your facility, pull out a specified amount with the dropper, add a solution and/or dip the test strips into the vial. Wait around 10 minutes and then check your results.
You’ll want to do two tests—one is a “first draw sample,” which looks at the water that’s been sitting in your system. The second is a “flushed sample,” which will test the water you’ve drawn from outside your facility.
Reading the Results
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say that no amount of lead is safe. That’s because lead builds up in your bones and is released into your bloodstream, especially during times of stress. Over time, exposure to even trace amounts of lead can lead to problems.
That said, the EPA does not signal the alarm unless lead reaches 15 parts per billion or more—this equates to 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water.
If your water does test positive for lead, you may need to look into new plumbing. Barring that, there are a few things you can do to reduce exposure.
- Running the water for 30 seconds to two minutes can flush some of the contaminated water out of the system temporarily.
- Heated water typically contains more lead. Consider only using cold water for any water that’s ingested.
- Get a water filter that specifically removes lead.
Identifying lead in your water is only the first step. If you’re above the PPB standards set out by the EPA, the above actions may just be stopgap. The real solution may involve replacing parts of your plumbing or installing a completely new system.
The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.