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How To Remove Lead From Water (Step-by-Step) 

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

We’re all aware of how important clean water is for our well-being. So, thinking it might be contaminated with toxic components like iron or lead can be worrying.

The truth is, your concerns are valid – lead in drinking water is a serious health risk. The EPA says anything over 15 µg/L is dangerous, and we’ve seen the devastating effects, like in the Flint water crisis of 2014.

Lead exposure can cause severe health issues, including brain damage and even death. That’s why ensuring our water is lead-free is crucial for the safety of our families.

How To Remove Lead From Water (Step-by-Step)

Thankfully, removing lead from water isn’t a mystery. With methods like reverse osmosis and distillation, you can make your water safe again.

To remove lead from your water via reverse osmosis, you need to purchase an NSF-certified reverse osmosis system, such as the Waterdrop G3 800 RO system or the Aquatru RO filter.

For water with an extremely high lead concentration, the best option is to purchase a whole-house lead water filtration system to filter water throughout the entire house. Another recommended solution is to completely replace your old water pipes that may be leaching lead into the water.

Water Filters for Lead
SpringWell Whole House Lead & Cyst Filtration System
  • Filtration technology: 0-5-micron filtration and adsorbent media
  • Filter type: Whole house water filter
  • Lead reduction rate: Minimum of 99%
  • The number of reduced contaminants: Not provided by the manufacturer
  • Filtration capacity: 8 GPM
  • NSF 53 certification: Not certified
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty
AquaTru Reverse Osmosis System
Reverse Osmosis System
  • Filtration technology: Reverse osmosis and Claryum
  • Filter type: Countertop
  • Lead reduction rate: Minimum of 99.1%
  • The number of reduced contaminants: 83+
  • Filtration capacity: 600 – 1200 gallons
  • NSF 53 certification: Certified
Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher
  • Filtration technology: Affinity Filtration
  • Filter type: Water filter pitcher
  • Lead reduction rate: Minimum of 99.3%
  • The number of reduced contaminants: 365+
  • Filtered Water Capacity: 10 cups (80oz)
  • NSF 53 certification: Certified
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you identify and remove the source of lead in your water:

  1. Identify the source of lead in your water
  2. Test the lead levels in your water
  3. Choose the appropriate lead treatment method
  4. Re-test your water for lead

Step 1: Identify the Source of Lead in Your Water

Lead in Drinking Water
Lead in Drinking Water

Before you can solve the problem, you need to understand where the lead is coming from.

Lead can sneak into your water supply from various sources, making it tricky to pinpoint the exact culprit.

The most common sources include old, corroded pipes, lead-based solder in plumbing, and even contamination from your municipal water supply. For example, if your home connects to the main water line through lead pipes, they could be leaching lead into your water.

To identify the cause, start by inspecting your pipes. If your home was built before 1986, there’s a higher chance that lead pipes or solder were used. Look for visible signs of corrosion or wear. If you’re unsure, a professional plumber can help identify and replace problematic pipes.

If neither the pipes nor the solders are the source of lead in your water, then your municipal water supply source is the likely culprit.

Step 2: Test Lead Levels in Water

Test Lead Levels in Water
Test Lead Levels in Water

Once you’ve identified the potential source of lead, it’s time to confirm if your water is actually contaminated.

You can’t see, taste, or smell lead in water, so testing is essential to know if there’s a problem and how severe it is.

Lead testing can reveal whether your water has unsafe levels of lead. You can use a DIY water test kit or hire a professional. Both options will give you a clear picture of your water’s lead content. Checking your water regularly is a good practice, especially if you suspect contamination from old pipes or recent changes in your water supply.

Purchase a reliable water test kit or contact a professional service to test your water. Follow the instructions carefully to get accurate results. Additionally, review the annual EPA reports on your public water system to see if there have been any recent issues with lead.

If the results show hazardous levels of lead in your water, you can proceed with one or more of the treatment solutions recommended below.Step 3: Choose a Treatment Method

Step 3: Choose Treatment Method To Remove Lead From Water

A portable faucet water filter
A portable faucet water filter

Now that you know there’s lead in your water, it’s time to decide on the best way to remove it.

Different levels of lead contamination and personal preferences call for different treatment methods. The right choice depends on your specific situation and needs.

There are several effective methods to remove lead from your water. Each method has its pros and cons, ranging from costs and installation efforts to effectiveness.

Here are your main options:

Option 1: Use a water filter to remove lead

Water filters are an easy, affordable way to remove lead from your water. There are many effective types of filters on the market, so be sure to choose one specifically designed to remove lead, such as those with an NSF certification.

Option 2: Remove lead with Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a more expensive method, but it’s highly effective at removing lead and other contaminants from water. A reverse osmosis system can fit under the sink or the kitchen’s countertop and consists of a combination of filters. Systems like the Waterdrop G3 P800 (undersink) and the AquaTru (countertop) are proven to remove lead from tap water.

Option 3: Remove lead with Distillation

Distillation is a process that involves collecting the condensed steam from boiling water, effectively removing lead. It’s costly and not scalable for larger households but does the job perfectly.

Option 4: Replace Lead Pipes

If corroded lead pipes are the source of lead, you’ll have to completely replace them. Although it’s a significant investment, it’s a permanent solution to lead contamination. Overhauling your plumbing system is a major renovation project, so it’s best to consult with a professional before proceeding.

Step 4: After Treatment, Check If the Water Is Free From Lead

Home Water Test Kit

Without verifying the results of your lead removal solution, you can’t be sure if the method has effectively removed the lead from your water.

Testing your water after treatment is essential to confirm that the lead levels are safe.

So, conduct another lead water test using a DIY test kit or a professional service. Compare your results to your initial test to see the improvement.

It’s also a good practice to periodically retest your water to ensure it remains safe over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does lead get in water?

The most typical lead sources in drinking water are old pipes, faucets, and other plumbing fixtures containing lead. Excess amounts of lead are more likely to appear in homes built before 1986 since the piping in these properties contains lead and is prone to rust.

Even newer homes are at risk as well since service pipes that connect your house to the main water supply may contain lead even if the fixtures in the house don’t. In the past, builders often used lead in these pipes and the interior plumbing of homes and buildings.

Workers sometimes solder plumbing fixtures made of brass, galvanized iron, and other materials with lead. Some water tanks might be lined with lead as well – another source for contamination.

Corrosion and rust in tanks and groundwater wells are additional potential lead contamination sources. High acidity and lower mineral content in water can result in high corrosion rates. Moreover, humidity, the water temperature, the age of the pipes, the length of time the water stays in the pipes, and the use of the protective coating might also cause corrosion in the long run.

Regardless of the source of lead, make sure to regularly inspect your plumbing, especially if your home is older. If you suspect a contamination, test your water and take appropriate actions as outlined in the previous sections.

What are the most common signs of lead in water?

You can’t rely on your senses to detect lead. Lead is invisible, tasteless, and odorless, making it hard to spot. The only definitive way to know if lead is present is through water testing.
So, use a DIY test kit or hire a professional to test your water. Do this especially if you live in an area with known lead issues or if your home has old plumbing.

What are the health effects of drinking lead-contaminated water?

Lead is a health hazard if ingested, and exposure to high levels of lead can cause serious health problems like brain damage, kidney damage, high blood pressure, anemia, and infertility. Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead.

After ingestion, lead is stored in the bones, blood, and tissue. As humans age, lead stored in the bones can be released into the blood, putting older individuals, especially women, at great risk.

The most common symptoms of lead exposure include:
Stomach problems and abdominal pain
Constipation
Pain/tingling in the hands and feet
Memory loss
Nervous system damage
Learning difficulties
Behavioral problems
Kidney damage
High blood pressure
Anemia
Lethargy
Headache
Weakness

What are the acceptable levels of lead in water?

Even small amounts of lead can be harmful, so it’s important to know the regulatory limits.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at 0.015 mg/L. This lead level is part of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Due to this legislation, the EPA set National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary standards) for contaminants that may cause adverse human health effects.

The government must enforce these standards since they apply to public water systems.

How much does it cost to remove lead from water?

Different methods of lead removal come with varying costs:
Reverse osmosis systems for lead cost around $200 – $1000
Distillation systems cost around $200 – $500
Changing the pipes can cost from $1,200 to $12,000
Choose the method that fits your budget and effectively addresses your lead contamination issue. Compare the long-term benefits and costs of each option to make the best decision.

What is the cheapest way to remove lead from water?

Lead removal can be expensive, but there are budget-friendly options.
The cheapest way to remove lead from water is with a portable water filter like faucet filters. You can buy them for as little as $30. However, they may not be as effective as using a reverse osmosis system or replacing your corroded pipes.

Conclusion

Lead contamination is a serious hazard that shouldn’t be overlooked. But with the right methods, you can easily mitigate this problem.

Having a whole-house filtration system, a reverse system, or a distillation mechanism will reduce the levels of lead in your water. In addition, you should have your water regularly tested by professionals.

This ongoing commitment protects your health and gives you peace of mind, knowing that your drinking water is free from harmful lead contamination.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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