How Can I Tell if My Water Pipes Are Lead or Iron?


Finding out if you have lead water pipes or lead service lines can require digging up the pipe lines. You may have leaded solder in your faucets instead, especially if your house was built before 1986. Congress banned the use of lead for solder and pipes in 1986. If you discover you have lead service lines, run the cold tap water for at least 5 minutes before cooking or drinking, then flush again for 1 to 2 minutes. Do not drink or cook with hot tap water--hot water contains higher lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Call your water provider to find out if you have lead service lines to your house.

  • Examine your water fixtures and fittings. Old and new brass fixtures can leach lead into your water, since these fixtures can contain up to 8 percent lead.

  • Look at the construction year of your house. During World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, copper became scarce, resulting in the use of lead lines for plumbing.

  • Scratch the solder at the joints of your pipes using a key if you find out you do not have lead pipes. If the joints have lead solder, they would appear as a dull gray color and look shiny when you scratch it with the key.

  • Get your water tested for lead. You cannot tell by tasting the water if it contains lead or not since you cannot smell, taste or see it. Contact your water provider about testing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a water filter certified by the National Sanitation Federation International (NSF) to remove lead. NSF filters remove about 98 percent of the lead from your water.
  • If you have lead pipes, turn flushing your water into a routine each morning by watering your lawn or washing your car. Taking a shower for at least 5 minutes, washing clothes or running the dishwasher in the morning also flushes the pipes.
  • Bottle water as soon as you flush your pipes and save it for drinking and cooking.
  • Make certain your young children do not receive lead contaminated water, since it slows down their physical and mental development and can build up over the years to cause brain, kidney and red blood cell damage. This also applies to pregnant women.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling the water has no effect on the lead content.

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