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Lead is one of the most dangerous water contaminants. There is no known safe level of lead. That’s why the EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal at zero.
Even low exposure to lead can cause development problems in fetuses, infants and children, leading to learning impairments, damage to the central nervous system, and hearing problems.
In adults, lead poisoning can lead to kidney damage and high blood pressure.
The most common source of lead in water plumbing made from lead. If your city has lead service lines, such as was the case in Flint, Michigan, lead can leach from the pipes into the water.
Your home may also have lead plumbing, especially if it was built before the 1950s.
Before you start looking for a way to remove lead from water, make sure it’s there. Send a sample of your water to a certified lab for lead testing.
If there is lead in the water, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to find the source of lead and eliminate it.
Ask a plumber to check if your home has any lead pipes and fittings. If it does, replace them with safer materials such as copper, brass, iron, and plastic.
If the problem is with your city’s plumbing (you can call your utility and ask them what kind of plumbing they use), there’s nothing much you can do about it, at least in the short term.
In either case, it’s important that you immediately install a filter to remove lead from your water.
There are several effective methods to remove lead from water.
Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective ways to filter out lead from drinking water. Most RO systems can remove over 99% of lead using a semi-permeable membrane.
Most RO systems go under the sink, but you can find a few countertops, and the whole house reverses osmosis water filters.
The main downside of reverse osmosis is water wastage. Most RO systems waste 1-3 gallons of water for every gallon of purified water.
This is another highly effective way to remove most of the lead in water.
It works by heating water and then collecting the water vapor and condensing it back to the water. Lead and other impurities are left behind in a concentrated form.
While effective, distillation is not very efficient.
It requires a fair amount of power and also wastes quite a bit of water.
Activated carbon filters typically do not remove dissolved solids such as lead, iron, and manganese.
But there are specially engineered activated carbon filters that can filter out lead. If you get an activated carbon filter, make sure it is NSF certified for the removal of lead.
Activated alumina consists of aluminum oxide. Lead has a very high affinity for aluminum oxide, meaning it easily reacts with it.
An activated alumina filter can remove most of the lead from water.
As you wait to buy and install your new lead filter, here are some ways you can reduce your family’s exposure to lead.
Note: If you suspect that you or your child have lead poisoning, call your doctor or your city’s health department to find out how you can get tested.
To make sure you are buying a good quality filter, look for lead filtration systems with NSF/ANSI 53 certification.
It’s the standard for systems that reduce contaminants with a direct health effect such as lead.
If you are looking for an affordable lead removal solution that doesn’t require any installation, a water filter pitcher is a great choice.
The 8-cup Aquagear water filter pitcher is one of the best for removing lead from drinking water.
Though it doesn’t have any certification, the manufacturer says it has been tested independently and exceeds NSF standards 42 and 53.
According to Aquagear, the water filter pitcher removes 99.9% of lead using a 5-stage filtration process. It also removes other contaminants such as fluoride (90.6%), arsenic (99.8%) and chromium 6 (99.4%).
Also, it removes contaminants that affect the taste and smell of water. These include chloramines, chlorines, and VOCs.
The main complaint from users is that the flow rate tends to go down after a few weeks of use.
There’s no installation required. All you need to do is flush the filter using your faucet (check the manual for instructions) and then assemble it onto the pitcher.
Fill the upper part of the pitcher with water and then leave the filter to do its thing.
It takes a while for the filtered water to drip out from the bottom of the filter cartridge. So it’s a good idea to keep the upper part of the filter filled to make sure there’s always filtered water to drink.
When full, the pitcher holds about eight glasses of clean water.
The filter is good for 3-6 months after which you need to replace it.
If you notice that the flow rate has become too low after a month or two, a common complaint among users, it may be time to get a new filter.
It could be that you are drinking a lot of water or your water has more contaminants. Both situations will clog the filter quicker than usual.
If you want a more consistent supply of filtered water, a faucet water filter may be more to your liking.
The installation process is simple and quick. Just connect the filter to your faucet. You don’t have to do any plumbing.
Our top pick is the Waterdrop 320-gallon faucet water filter.
It was a tough choice between this and the Brita Tap Water Filter System. But the Brita faucet filter seems to have many quality issues with numerous customers complaining about leaks.
The Waterdrop filter is a couple or so dollars more expensive, but it will last longer.
The Waterdrop filter has a special advanced filtration layer that’s designed specifically for removing lead and fluoride.
It also contains activated carbon filter that removes 93% of chlorine and other chemicals that affect the taste and smell of water such as VOCs.
A post-filtration stage deals with small particulates such as sand, fine sediment, and rust.
A stainless steel mesh at the end of the filter captures any large particles remaining in the water.
These two filters – the post-sediment-filter and the stainless steel mesh – are also present at the top of the filter.
They remove fine and coarse particulates before the water passes through the lead and carbon filters.
Flow rate is not too bad. Filtered water flows out at a rate of 0.5 gallons per minutes.
You can fill several cups or even a large pitcher in a few minutes.
Set up is easy and straightforward.
The faucet filter is compatible with most standard faucets. Just remove the aerator, choose the appropriate adapter from the ones included, and attach it to the faucet.
Add some Teflon tape to the faucet before you screw on the adaptor to prevent leaks.
Attach the filter head to the faucet adaptor and assemble the filter cartridge onto it. Flush the new cartridge, and then the water will be ready to drink.
A convenient lever on the filter allows you to switch easily between normal tap water and filtered water.
Each filter cartridge is good for three months or about 320 gallons. You can get a 3-pack replacement set online that will last you almost one year.
Other than filter replacement, no other maintenance is needed.
For most people, an under-sink water filter is the best solution for lead removal.
It takes a bit more time to set up, but the flow rate is better, the filters last longer, and the filter’s daily capacity is much higher than the amount of water most families need.
If you are on a budget, we recommend the Woder 10K-Gen3 water filtration system. It’s one of the few under-sink filters you can get for under $100.
It’s easy to install, and the filters last an impressive three years.
The manufacturer doesn’t specify what filtration media the filter uses, but it’s most likely a combination of activated carbon and activated alumina.
The Woder 10K-Gen3 removes up to 99.9% as well as other contaminants including chromium 6, various heavy metals and chlorine.
Unlike RO under-sink filtration systems, it doesn’t touch the healthy minerals in the water. So you still get your tasty mineral water.
Flow rate is pretty good at 2 gallons a minute. You won’t have to stand there forever waiting for a pitcher to fill up.
The Woder 10K-Gen3 is easier and quicker to install compared to under-sink RO systems.
You just need to connect it to the 3/8” cold water valve under the sink and connect the other hose into the faucet stem.
Unlike an RO system, you don’t have to set up drainage or drill a hole for a new faucet. There’s no wasted water (so no drainage needed) and it uses the existing faucet to produce filtered water.
You don’t need to replace the filter for three years or about 10,000 gallons, making this one of the lowest maintenance under-sink filters.
A reverse osmosis water filter is one of the best ways of removing lead from drinking water. The semi-permeable membrane removes between 94% and 99%of lead, depending on membrane type and quality.
When it comes to RO systems, we automatically recommend the Home Master TMAFC-ERP as our top pick.
It performs great, it’s very reliable, and the quality is unmatched by most RO systems. It’s no wonder it has an almost perfect rating on Amazon.
The TMAFC-ERPRO filter uses multiple stages to remove a wide range of contaminants from the water.
Pre-filters filter out chlorine, sediment, and various chemicals while the semi-permeable membrane deals with the hard-to-remove impurities like lead and heavy metals.
The TMAFC-ERP system has an integrated permeate pump that reduces the amount of water wasted and increases flow rate out of the faucet.
The extra-wide fittings also increase flow rate, ensuring you don’t have to endure a trickle as is the case with most RO systems.
Installing the TMAFC-ERP system under your sink is a 1-2 hour DIY project. You just need some basic plumbing skills. All the parts and fittings you need are included.
Like other RO systems, the Home Master TMAFC-ERP comes with its dedicated faucet that you have to install on your sink.
You don’t need to change the filters until after a year. When it’s time to put in new ones, the modular design makes replacement easy and mess-free.
Instead of removing the cartridge, you discard the entire housing and screw on a new one.
As for the membrane, it’s good for 3-5 years.
If you don’t have space to install an under-sink lead removal water filter or you want a filter you can take with you on the road; we recommend the APEC RO-CTOP-C portable RO filter.
The compact reverse osmosis system hooks up to a standard faucet in minutes. You can set it up on the kitchen counter, in a hotel room, in a dorm room, in an RV and wherever else you can access a standard faucet.
Despite its size, the APEC RO-CTOP-C has four stages of filtration, almost the same number as an under-sink system.
A sediment filter removes sand and other particulates; a carbon filter removes chlorine and other chemicals and the membrane at the heart of the system deal with lead, heavy metals and bacteria.
It removes 90-99% of total dissolved solids (TDS).
A post-filter gives the water a final polish before it comes out.
Because the filter lacks a pressurized reserve tank, water comes out slowly.
If you are using the filter in your kitchen, RV or boat, collect the purified water in a pitcher or bottle for quick access when you need a glass of water.
The filter attaches to a standard faucet. It’s not compatible with pull-out, sprayer or any specially designed faucets.
It comes with several adaptors for different faucet sizes and styles.
The pre-filters have a lifespan of 6-8 months. Of course, if you only use the filter when you travel, you can wait longer before replacing the two pre-filters.
The RO-membrane and the post-filter last about 2-3 years depending on usage and water quality.
Prefer using lead-free water everywhere in the house, including the shower? What you need is a whole house water filter system.
The best one we know of that can remove lead is the iSpring WGB22B-PB 2-stage whole house filter.
It consists of two big blue filter stages that are specifically designed to remove lead and iron.
The iSpring WGB22B-PB doesn’t start with a sediment filter. So if your water has sand, rust or other particulates, it’s a good idea to install a sediment filter before this system.
The first filter is activated carbon. It filters out chlorine and other chemicals such as VOCs and pesticides.
The second filter consists of lead and iron removal media. It reduces lead levels down to less than 15 ppb (parts per billion), the minimum level enforced by the EPA.
Flow rate is pretty good. The large 1” ports allow water to through at a speedy 15 gallons a minute. If there’s any pressure drop from the shower and faucets, it will be very small.
Install the iSpring WGB22B-PB on your main water supply before the heater.
You may need some fittings to connect it to your mainline, but all other parts are provided included a metal bracket to mount the filter and a housing wrench to loosen the filter housings when you replace the filters.
iSpring recommends replacing the filters after 100,000 gallons or about one year.
Replacing the filters is easy but can be a bit messy when you remove the wet filter cartridges.
Remember to switch off the water when replacing the filters. Alternatively, you can install a bypass valve so that water can still flow to the house as you service the filter.
Most Brita filters use activated carbon filters, which are ineffective against lead. If you want a lead-removal Brita pitcher, look for one that uses Brita Lonlast filter.
It is certified to remove up to 99% of lead from water as well as chlorine, mercury, asbestos, and benzene.
The Longlast filter is compatible with all Brita pitchers except the Infinity Pitcher and the Stream Pitcher.
So if you already have a Brita pitcher, you can simply swap out the basic filter for the lead-removing Longlast filter.
In addition to their filter pitchers, Brita also sells a faucet-mounted water filter that removes over 99% of lead.
Black Berkey filters are NSF-certified to remove lead and other dangerous impurities such as heavy metals.
Berkey water filter pitchers, their filter pitchers remove over 99.9% of lead.
So yes, Berkey water filter pitchers are good for removing lead from drinking.
Yes, PUR water filter pitchers and faucet-mounted water filters can remove lead. But make sure you get one with the right type of filter.
For filter pitchers, you want the PUR PPF951K1 lead reduction filter. It’s WQA certified to reduce lead levels by 99%.
For faucet-mounted filters, get the PUR FM-3700 Advanced Faucet Water Filter that removes up to 99% of lead.
According to the CDC, bathing and showering with water containing lead is safe, even for children. That’s because the skin does not absorb lead in water.
If you want complete peace of mind – perhaps you are afraid some of the shower water will find its way into your kids’ mouths, as it always does–get a shower filter for lead removal.
They both claim to remove heavy metals like lead and a variety of other impurities though they don’t provide the exact reduction rates.
To be sure that you are showering with lead-free water, a lead removal whole house water filter will be more reassuring.
Reverse osmosis and distillation are the two most effective ways of removing lead from water. Carbon filters certified for lead removal and special lead removal filters are also an option.
Lead dissolved in water does not have any smell, color, or taste. You cannot tell if there’s lead in your water simply by looking at it or smelling it.
The only way to be sure is to have your water tested. This is especially important if your city has some lead service lines or your house uses old lead plumbing.
Yes, there are plenty of refrigerator and icemaker filters that can remove over 99% of lead in the water.
Well, water can have the lead, but it most likely did not get there naturally unlike minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron which come from the earth’s crust.
Instead, it usually comes from man-made parts in the well such as the submersible pump and plumbing. If your well was constructed over 20 years ago, there’s a good chance it might have some lead components.
Get the water tested immediately. If it contains lead, the first step is to protect your family by installing a lead filter or looking for an alternative source of water.
Then have an expert identify which components are introducing lead into the water and replace them.
Remember that you can’t identify lead in water by smell or taste. You won’t know if your well water contains lead until you get it tested in a lab.
No. Boiling water has the opposite effect. It slightly increases lead concentration as some of the water evaporates.
Using the hot water faucet also will not protect you from lead contamination. You should never draw hot water for drinking or cooking from the faucet if you suspect your plumbing contains lead.
That’s because lead dissolves more readily in hot water.
No. A water softener is ineffective against heavy metals like lead, mercury, and chromium.
Even if it did remove lead, it wouldn’t be much help. A water softener is typically installed at the water’s entry point into the home. The softened water can still dissolve lead along the way to the faucets and other outlets.
Zero. That’s right; there’s no safe level of lead in drinking water.
The EPA and CDC consider any amount of lead in water to be dangerous, especially to children, infants, and fetuses.
Ed is a water specialist in Tampa, FL. He built CleanerSofterWater.com to help his friends and family learn about DIY solutions to common water quality issues in the home.
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