What is Lead?

Lead is a chemical element found primarily underground in the Earth’s crust. Lead is a malleable and versatile heavy metal that is toxic for humans even in small amounts. Lead has an atomic number of 82 and has the symbol Pb, taken from the Latin word “plumbum.”

Lead can be found in most parts of our environment, including the soil, the air, and the water we drink. Before the full extent of lead’s toxicity was known much of the population was exposed to lead through its presence in common household and workplace products. Lead is easy to extract and easy to use in manufacturing, so for a time its use was standard. Lead-based products include paint, gasoline, batteries, ceramics, and the pipes that service our homes.

Thanks to new state and federal regulations that were implemented in the 1980s many products like lead-based paint and leaded gasoline have been altered to remove lead. Lead can still enter the environment in multiple ways. Industrial sources and contaminated areas can highly increase the concentration of lead in the nearby air and soil. Living near a mining or smelting facility means the lead in your soil can be concentrated at a dangerous level.

Currently, some of the most common sources of lead exposure in the United States include:

Contaminated soil Household dust Lead glazed pottery
Drinking water Lead-based paint in older homes

Throughout the United States, more than 2,000 separate water systems contain harmful levels of lead.

How Does Lead Get Into Drinking Water?

Three years ago reporters discovered the frightening levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, and the ongoing crisis still creates fear for other Americans. Recently the mayor of Flint revealed that the city probably won’t receive an “all-clear” to drink the tap water without a filter until the end of 2019, five years after the problem was first brought to light.

Which begs the question: how does this happen? How does toxic lead get into the water supply in the first place?

Service pipes that contain lead are a major piece of the puzzle, along with the process of corrosion. Corrosion is a natural process that occurs between water and the pipes that transport treated water to your home. Specifically, it’s a chemical reaction that dissolves and wears away the metal in the pipes. Water does not leave the treatment facility contaminated with lead; this occurs in transit before the water reaches your tap.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency many factors can increase the likelihood of corroded lead ending up in your drinking water. These factors include:

  • High acidity levels in the water
  • Low mineral content in the water
  • A lack of protective coating or scales in your plumbing
  • Pipes that already exhibit a high amount of wear
  • High water temperature

Lead doesn’t just leach through distribution systems: if you live in an older home with lead piping the problem is built into your house.The problem happens most frequently with brass or chrome-plated brass fixtures that contain lead solder. If your home was built after 1986 it is less likely that your home contains lead fixtures, solder, or pipes.

However, your exposure will vary based on the service lines in your area. As many as 10 million homes are still being serviced with lead service lines, which is the cause of the problem in the first place.

Health Effects of Lead in Drinking Water

Lead is extremely harmful in the smallest of doses. The EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero, meaning that there is no amount of lead, no matter how trace, that is safe for human consumption.

Toxic metals like lead are persistent, meaning they don’t easily leave your body and will accumulate over time if you are exposed for lead for a prolonged period of time.

Nearly every organ and system in your body can be adversely affected by lead exposure. The risk is greatest for young children 6 years of age and younger; they are especially susceptible to health problems caused by lead.

Consuming lead has an extremely negative impact on the development of children. At lead levels less than 10 micrograms per deciliter in the bloodstream the following health problems have been demonstrated in children:

Hearing loss Weight gain
Cognitive impairment Slow bone growth
Delays in puberty An increase in behavioral problems
Lower IQ scores Development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Abdominal pain and cramping

Even for adults the potential health problems are severe. Adults can develop any of the following issues after drinking water containing lead:Even for adults the potential health problems are severe. Adults can develop any of the following issues after drinking water containing lead:

Cardiovascular issues Fertility problems for both men and women
Nerve disorders High blood pressure
Decreased kidney function Hypertension

Pregnant women should be especially cautious, as lead is known to have long-lasting effects on children in the womb. Small levels of lead in the bloodstream of pregnant women (less than 5 micrograms per deciliter) are associated with reduced fetal growth.

A lifelong exposure to lead in the workplace and in your environment can increase your risk for developing cataracts and for complete vision loss. The health problems associated with lead are serious, and any indication of the presence of lead in your drinking water should be dealt with immediately.

How to Test Your Water for Lead

The EPA requires that your local public water system must notify you if there is a problem detected in your drinking water. However, as was seen in display, these notifications are not immediate.

If you obtain your water from a private well you are responsible for maintaining your water’s cleanliness and for testing it yourself. Furthermore, water could become contaminated with lead after leaving the water treatment facility near you, and in this case your municipality may not know there is a contaminant lurking in your drinking water.

If you believe the drinking water in your home may be contaminated with lead the best course of action is to conduct a water test at home.

There are many options available for water testing in your home. Pelican Water carries various types of water testing kits based on your budget and needs.

In order to check for lead we recommend the WaterCheck 32 Test. This is the most affordable water test that will measure the amount of lead in your drinking water.

Order a test and consider buying a point-of-use filter if you are concerned about the possibility of lead contamination. Remember, boiling your water will not remove lead if it is present.

Once your water test arrives, follow these instructions:


Once the test arrives, carefully read all of the instructions on the packaging to guarantee a valid sample


Follow the instructions provided to gather a water sample for testing.


Using FedEx or UPS Overnight Saver, return your kit with the sample to the testing laboratory location indicated in the instructions. Note: return shipping is not included.


The lab will process the results of your water test within 7 to 10 days of receiving your kit.


Read your results once they have been mailed back to you.

Remember, any amount of lead in your water is cause for concern. After reading your water quality analysis report it’s best to contact the lab that conducted the testing if you have any questions. If you are still having trouble determining whether there is lead in your drinking water contact Pelican Water directly.

How to Remove and Filter Lead From Water

As we mentioned above, lead cannot be removed from your water by boiling it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend removing the source of the lead, such as an aging corroded pipe, to treat the source of the issue.

In cities like Flint where this process will take years to complete, the organization’s official stance is that homeowners should install water filters specifically designed to remove harmful contaminants like lead from the water supply.

Water filtration systems that use reverse osmosis or have a whole house lead filter can effectively reduce the amount of lead in contaminated water. The water filtration system you choose will change based on whether the lead is getting into your water from pipes in your home or pipes from the city en route to your home. You will need a point-of-entry (POE) system to treat water tainted with lead from distribution pipes, and a point-of-use (POU) system if the pipes in your own home contain lead.

However, not all water filters are designed to remove lead. In order to make the best choice for your family keep reading for our comprehensive list of water treatment systems that filter lead from your drinking water.

Best Lead Water Filters

After conducting a water test, if you have determined you need a water filter to address lead consider one of these options:

Countertop Drinking Filter System - For families on a tight budget the Pelican Water Countertop Drinking Filter System may be the most economical choice. This water filter system filters and reduces more than 60 contaminants including chlorine. The system is NSF-certified and filters chlorine at a rate of 98%, resulting in healthier, great-tasting water for your whole family.

6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System - Reverse osmosis water systems are designed to filter out harmful chemicals and contaminants to deliver pure, high-quality drinking water. Our 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System helps reduce that chlorine odor and taste, and also filters cysts, arsenic, fluoride, turbidity, copper, chromium, and other common contaminants. With Pelican Water’s green design you’ll reduce your water waste by 50% when you choose a reverse osmosis system.

Drinking Water Purification System - This state-of-the-art water purifier targets unwanted elements on a microscopic level, filtering compounds including cysts, bacteria, viruses, chlorine, lead, and organic compounds from your water. Pelican Water’s Drinking Water Purification System filters lead at a rate above 99%, making it one of the most effective options for treating lead contamination. This 3-Stage system will protect your family from a host of harmful impurities without wasting any water or electricity!

EZ-Connect Compact Water Filtration System - The compact EZ-Connect series of water filters are designed to accommodate smaller dwellings where a large filtration system isn’t feasible. For families living in apartments, RVs, condos, or houseboats this system that targets chlorine and chloramine will bring you peace of mind without taking up much space. This system reduces chlorine at a rate of 99%.

Lead is a contaminant that cannot be ignored. If you have any questions about our products or about protecting your family from the harmful effects of lead contact a Pelican Water specialist today.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.