Frequently Asked Questions - Lead FAQ
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, food, and water.
The most common source of lead exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. The main sources of lead exposure are ingesting lead paint and inhaling dust created from home renovations (homes constructred before 1978). Lead can also be found in some household plumbing materials and some water service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.
Lead leaches into water over time through corrosion—a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s corrosivity, and water temperature.
Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body. It can damage the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.
If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead pipes (lead is a dull gray metal that is soft enough to be easily scratched with a house key), you may want to have your water tested by a certified laboratory. Testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present or absent. For more information on testing your water, you can call us at (401) 521-6303.
- Homes constructed before 1945 may have lead service lines.
- Homes built after 1982 and before 1988 may have lead solder joints on their copper piping.
- Your home's brass fixtures may also contain lead.
- In 2014, Federal law mandated the surface of every pipe, fixture, and fitting sold for the use of potable water not contain more than .25% lead by weight. If your home has brass fittings that have been installed before 2014, they may contain lead.
Lead services lines on a customer’s property are not part of the public water system and are the responsibility of the property owner. The property owner owns and maintains their service line from the shutoff valve located in the sidewalk or grassed area in the street right-of-way to the water meter. Providence Water advises that you contact a licensed plumber for work on your service line. To learn more about replacing lead service lines, contact us at (401) 521-6303.
With our lead notification and other outreach methods, Providence Water is educating consumers about steps to take to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water and the health risks associated with exposure to lead. Providence Water has also made changes to the water treatment process to make the water less corrosive in an effort to reduce lead levels in some homes.
These measures, combined with the water main rehabilitation program's public lead service replacements and our unidirectional flushing program, are being utilized to reduce lead levels at the tap in homes with lead service connections.