Is there lead in your home's water?

Posted at 1:07 PM, Nov 09, 2017

For people living in older homes, the dangers of lead paint is a real concern - especially if you have young children.

"Under the age of six, the brain is still developing and that lead toxin can affect development," said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health.

However, many forget that lead could also be poisoning your home's drinking water if you have older pipes, fittings or fixtures.

The problem is a greater concern for people using well water or with caustic water situations.

Most municipal systems, like the Erie County Water Authority, treat water to help prevent the leaching of lead from old pipes.

Home "do-it-yourselfers" need to exercise caution because working on old water pipes can dislodge lead particles.

Even those looking to reuse old bathroom fixtures, like clawfoot tubs and brass faucets, need to be aware that many of those were built using high amounts of lead.

New laws put into place, starting in 1978, restricted the use of lead in homes and household water systems - including lead-free solder that was used to connect copper water pipes.

But what should you do if you have an old house and pipes?

Experts recommend running your water for about a minute everyday before using it to drink or brush your teeth.

Use only cold water to cook because lead-tainted water could be sitting in your hot water tanks.

Consult with a licensed professional when making repairs or replacing old water pipes.

Don't reuse old water fixtures - buy new ones that look old, if that is what you need.

If you have old tubs, like clawfoot bathtubs, have them resurfaced to prevent lead from leaching into bath water that can be splashed into children's mouths.

The Erie County Health Department said if people have concerns, they should have their water tested.

In Buffalo, free testing can be arranged by calling the city's 311 number.

For people outside the city, the New York State Department of Health has now started a pilot program to provide free water testing.  https://health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/lead/free_lead_testing_pilot_program.htm

The Erie County Department of Health also provides information about preventing lead poisoning: http://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=lead-poisoning-prevention

Tonight at 11 p.m, 7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly takes an in-depth look at the problem of lead in your water.