As a homeowner, you work hard to keep your house safe. You install an alarm system to keep burglars out and make sure the walkways are in proper working order. You keep kitchen knives away from children and install smoke detectors in key spots across the home.
But not all dangers are easy to identify. Some things, like lead, are undetectable to the naked eye and can cause serious health problems. You have no way of knowing whether your family is being subjected to this danger.
What Is Lead?
Lead is a chemical element. The metal occurs naturally in the environment and can be silver to gray in appearance. Lead has a low melting point and has been a major material in a large variety of products.
Lead has been used in various products and applications, such as:
- Leaded gasoline
- Construction material
In recent years, health officials have pointed to the dangers of lead exposure, especially in drinking water. Lead can leach out of pipes and fittings and expose people to lead. That has caused a reduction in the use of lead in many products.
What Are The Dangers Of Lead?
Lead exposure is the most dangerous to human beings through water. The body does not absorb lead through touching the skin, but it can be absorbed when ingested. Lead enters the drinking water when it is leached through corrosion of the water pipes. The metal is dissolved into the water when it passes through corroded lead pipes and fittings.
If you have lead in your water, drinking a glass of water or cooking in water can cause exposure. Even making a baby’s formula can expose the child to lead.
A number of factors influence corrosion, including the acidity of the water and the amount of lead in the pipes. Homes built before 1986 most likely have lead pipes and fittings.
The problem is that lead accumulates in the body over time. In other words, it bioaccumulates. That long-term exposure is harmful to your health. In the worst cases, high levels of exposure can cause coma and death. At lower levels, it can harm the renal system, cause high blood pressure and organ toxicity.
Lead is especially harmful to children. Lead exposure at a young age impacts brain development, which can result in behavior problems and possible antisocial behavior.
How Do You Test For Lead?
If you are concerned about the level of lead in your home, you have options when it comes to testing. The option you choose depends on the level of accuracy you desire, and the amount of money that you are willing to spend.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends lead levels in water at 15 parts per billion, but some experts say the amount should be lower.
Lowe’s, Home Depot and most hardware stores offer inexpensive lead drinking water test kits. The kits usually cost around $20. They often test for lead, iron and other metals. The test takes about 15 minutes but only reads positive or negative.
Hire a laboratory
You can hire a certified testing company. The state of Virginia offers a list of the accredited laboratories in the region. To have your water tested, you call the company and order the test. The company takes a water sample in your home and performs the test in the lab. In a few days, you get the results. You will know the actual parts per billion of lead water levels. The test costs between $200 and $500.
What Is A Lead Service Line?
The Flint water crisis shows the dangers of corrosion and lead in drinking water.
The city changed the source of water and did not do enough to protect corrosion from the new water supply. A large amount of the city had lead service lines, and the lead in the service lines corroded when the new water was introduced, contaminating the water supply.
Lead service lines are the lines that connect from the mainline on the street to your house. As the name implies, they are built out of lead.
The Flint water crisis proves the need to determine if you have a lead service line in your area, and that means contacting a plumber. The plumber can assess your situation and verify if you have a lead service line that runs from the street to your home.
What Is The Best Way To Get My Lead Service Line Replaced?
If a plumber determines that you have a lead service line, you can always pay to have it replaced. You can hire a plumber and pay the money out-of-pocket.
But you can also get assistance from the City of Richmond. The city offers a program called the Residential Lead Service Line Replacement Grant Program. The grant is worth up to $2,500 and goes toward the replacement of the line.
The grant generally pays the majority of the replacement costs. Work starts once the application is approved, and the payment goes directly to the plumber. Carroll Plumbing & Heating is an authorized lead line replacement service provider.
Getting Lead Service Line Replacement
Replacing your lead service line is a wise decision in the short, and long-term. It’s also a reliable and cost-effective way to protect your family from lead exposure.