A network of experts in reproductive and children’s environmental health

PEHSU Fact Sheet on Lead and Drinking Water: Information for Health Professionals Across the United States (2016) > How do I counsel a family about identifying if lead is in their drinking water?

How do I counsel a family about identifying if lead is in their drinking water?

posted on Aug 1, 2019
  • The US EPA regulates lead in public water supplies with more than 50 customers under the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule, which requires certain actions by municipal water utilities when more than 10% of customer taps sampled have a lead concentration that exceeds 15 parts per billion (ppb). The 15 ppb action level is an administrative tool to evaluate and mitigate community level exposure; it is not a health-based standard.
  • Clinicians should recommend families learn more about the water coming into their home. US EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual drinking water quality report entitled Consumer Confidence Report for their customers (http://www.epa.gov/ccr). Figure 1. Water Distribution System from the Treatment Plant to Household Plumbing. Source: GAO. 2006. www.gao.gov/assets/250/248883.pdf
  • Homes may have internal plumbing materials containing lead. At a minimum, clinicians should encourage families to discuss the need for water testing with local public health officials when certain risk factors are present (e.g., infants on formula made with tap water). These agencies may provide lead testing at low cost. A list of certified laboratories are available from state or local drinking water authorities. In Table 1, there are references to help locate these laboratories; alternatively, contact the State Drinking Water Officer or the EPA Safe Drinking Water hotline at 1- 800-426-4791.
  • The US EPA does NOT recommend water test kits available at local hardware stores.