The possible presence of lead in household water supplies continues to be an important issue for new parents: the toxic metal can produce symptoms that are easily confused with long-term exposure to mold, and sometimes obtaining a diagnosis requires several visits to doctors. Lead, due to its soft and pliable nature, was used in plumbing since the days of ancient Rome. In fact, the Latin word for lead is “plumbum.”
High levels of calcium in the Roman water supply blocked the absorption of lead into citizens’ drinking water, and since the heavy metal is never absorbed through the skin, the people of Rome were safe from their toxic plumbing. The worldwide use of lead as a joining material between water pipes persisted until about three decades ago.
Water filtration systems and solutions for lead reduction are available through certified agencies, and the best water systems contractors should be able to conduct a thorough assessment of a home’s drinking water supply. Some homes may require specialized filters or more comprehensive home water treatment plans; experienced contractors should be familiar with a variety of water filtration systems.
Homeowners who draw their water from wells may also want to perform a “checkup” on their water supplies; even the best water systems can benefit from regular maintenance, experts report. Well water treatment solutions may involve routine testing for the presence of lead and other heavy metals; in home water purification systems can often be retrofitted to water systems that may not be connected to the public water supply.
Unfortunately, toxic levels of lead in the body have consistently been linked to severe disruptions in behavior and, sometimes, in children’s intellectual development. Although lead poisoning is relatively rare in the United States, children who live in homes that were built in the late 1970s may be at higher risk for exposure. Though the rates of lead continue to decline, the heavy metal may linger unseen in paint, dust, and even fields or backyards.