Health Effects of Lead in Water

Lead is a toxic metal present naturally in the earth’s crust. It is a soft material resistant to corrosion. Its widespread use has resulted in many parts of the world to a major pollution of the environment, a significant level of human exposure and serious public health problems.

The main sources of pollution include mining, metallurgy, manufacturing and recycling activities and, in some countries, the persistent use of leaded paints and petrol. More than three quarters parts of the world consumption of lead correspond to the production of lead-acid batteries for motor vehicles.

Lead is a metal that was used in the past as a material in roofs and leaded glass polluting the environment, air, soil, food and water. In plumbing it has been used, as early as the times of Rome, by many civilizations to transport water. Until the 70s, it was common to use lead pipes inside houses and connections service lines that carried water from public water systems to homes. Later, iron and copper pipes replaced the lead in most residential areas. Lead enters drinking water as a result of corrosion or when materials containing lead in the pipe or the water distribution system of the house are spent.

Lead can be found in other places in your home; such as loose material in the grid tap, waste materials in new homes pipe or, pipes that have been recently renovated, faucets and brass fixtures containing lead on its alloy, and lead solder to join two pieces of pipe. Lead solder is gray and when it is scratched or scraped with a key takes a bright color. Also the irrigation line may contain water polluted with lead, therefore determine whether the line connecting the plumbing in your house or apartment with the main pipe is made of lead. On the other hand, the electrical system underground cables that are attached to the pipe can cause increased corrosion affecting drinking water.

When water stagnates for several hours in lead pipes or pipe system containing lead, it can be dissolved in drinking water. This means that when you open the faucet in the morning or water that has not been moving for an extended period of time used, can accumulate high levels of lead. If your water is soft or corrosive, this type of water can accelerate the leaching of lead and copper and other metals from your household plumbing and water fixtures. The signs of this type of problem would include: greenish rings (copper) around basins, metallic or bitter taste to your water especially in the mornings, and frequent leaks/ evidence of corrosion of you household plumbing.

Lead accumulates in the body until it reaches toxic levels. It is absorbed through the digestive system, lungs and skin. Once inside the body, lead is carried by the blood throughout the body and reaches the bones, brain, liver, kidneys and teeth. It is then collected over time, and for many years before being exposed. The effects of lead poisoning depend on how much lead your system has accumulated. Adults can suffer several health problems, such are: reproductive problems and complications with pregnancy, incensement in the risk of hypertension and renal injury, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration difficulties, muscle and joint pain, anaemia, immunotoxicity.

Lead stored in the bones can be recirculated through the blood during pregnancy, with the consequent risk to the fetus. In pregnant women, exposure to high lead levels can cause a natural abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight, and cause minor birth defects.

The young children are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, because, depending on the source of contamination, their bodies can absorb an amount of lead between 4 and 5 times higher than adults; and can have serious and permanent health consequences, affecting in particular the development of the brain and nervous system. Not only does lead poisoning stunt a child’s growth, damage the nervous system, and cause learning disabilities, but it is now Also linked to crime and anti-social behavior in children.

No level of lead concentration in blood can be considered without risk. It has been confirmed, however, that the higher level of exposure to lead, more diversity and increased severity of symptoms and effects associated therewith.

Drinking water is only one of the possible routes of exposure to lead contamination, but it is one of the easiest routes of contamination to reduce. If you suspect that your water contains lead, it needs to be analyzed.