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Lead? Really…How Safe is Your Water?

 

How Safe is Your Drinking Water?Water Poison Wheel

The reason you are interested in ionized alkaline water and AlkaViva is because you care. You care about yourself, your health, and the health of your family. Because you care, you may even have looked at your local water report and are active with AlkaViva because you know that even the most basic of water filtration will make a difference in what you’re drinking. But will it? You’re proactive, yes, but are you being misled?

When you first become involved with AlkaViva in determining which ionizer is the right solution for you and your family, we often send you to your city’s public water report as a starting place. (Much of the time, we recommend that you have a professional water test to be sure what is really in your water.) Public water reports can be misleading for a number of reasons.  Public testing is often done when there is plenty of ground water, so pollution levels are relatively low. Authorities are required to test for certain contaminants only and there is no published list of the pharmaceutical contaminants in your water…anywhere!

Here’s where the subjectivity of “safe levels” come into play as well. Are you aware, for example, that what was considered a safe level for arsenic was relaxed due to the level of complaints about the cost involved in removing it from the drinking water? (And…in thinking about it…what would actually be a safe level for arsenic in your water?)

There is another contaminant that the American public is drinking at a dangerous level. To make matters worse, it is one that doesn’t even show up in any public water report because the problem is in your home and not with the source water that is tested at it’s source.

Which contaminant is it? The one that is the most dangerous neurotoxin known to humankind. It is especially damaging to the brain and nervous systems of children and because of the awareness of it’s toxicity, it has already been removed from children’s toys, paint and gasoline.

Lead!

Lead does not show up in water reports done at the drinking water source because it is caused by leaching from old water pipes laid down by water utility companies in the past. Lead in our water is caused by leaching from old water pipes laid down by water utility companies, from all of those lead-soldered joints in the home AND from hardware once advertised as “lead-free” (even though containing up to 8% lead).

Lead in water is typically very bio-available (easily absorbed into the body) and can, therefore, be very dangerous. It is estimated that children typically get about 20 percent of their lead exposure from water while for newborns on baby formula, this amount is often between 40 to 60 percent.

The EPA has been very much aware of the lead problem since the 1970’s and tried to find a solution, but due to pressure from lobbyist groups, finished up adopting a policy that has only exasperated the issue. A federal law reducing the acceptable amount of lead in these plumbing fixtures to .25 percent will take effect in 2014, although Vermont and California have already adopted this law. And acceptable lead levels are being so dramatically reduced because they have been proven to be unsafe above these levels.

Jeffrey Kempic, an environmental engineer with the EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water in Washington, D.C., noted in a presentation to the EPA’s advisory panel that the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) is not health-based, but was chosen for the practical reasons of feasibility and economics. Advisory panel chairman Griffiths said, “That doesn’t mean if you are at 14.9 that’s not bad for you”.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its definition of lead poisoning in response to a CDC advisory panel report declaring that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. The CDC lowered the threshold for intervention in children from 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to 5.

The EPA policy that continues to exasperate the issue is that water utility companies are allowed to replace piping as it becomes damaged  (a process called partial pipe replacement). PLSLRs (partial lead service line replacements) have not been shown in the short term (months or longer) to reduce drinking water lead levels and are often associated with “elevated drinking water lead levels for some period of time after replacement, suggesting the potential for harm, rather than benefit, during that time period.”

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, ran an investigation into lead-in-water issues and in a letter to the EPA, wrote, “Under the LCR [Lead and Copper Rule] homeowners are warned in general about the dangers of lead, particularly to young children, babies, pregnant women and their fetuses.” But, he wrote, “they are not notified about the grave impact that ‘partial’ lead line replacements may have and the significant unintended public health risks this partial replacement may pose to their families. These PLSLR’s have cost local water systems tens of millions of dollars and in many cases have elevated, not decreased water lead levels for extended periods of time in cities around the country.”

A study in 2010 noting that children living in houses in Washington, D.C., where partial pipe replacements were carried out, were three times as likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood as children living in houses in which the old lead service lines remained undisturbed, or were not made of lead.

So why are these partial pipe replacements still commonplace? One reason is that replacing the customer’s portion of the pipe, from the property line or meter to the home, is expensive. Another reason is that residents are often not always told that partial pipe replacements have been shown to raise the risk of lead poisoning.

In Louisville, Ky., for example, the Louisville Water Company has been conducting voluntary partial pipe replacements for decades. The utility plans to finish replacing its portion of all lead service lines by 2020 — about 19,700 services in all, according to a “Lead Information Sheet” published on its website. That same information sheet gives customers no indication of the potential threat posed by what the company calls its “aggressive initiatives.” Tests conducted throughout the system “all confirm that lead in drinking water does NOT pose a health threat to our customers,” the handout states. Despite that, in 2011, about 10 percent of the Louisville samples exceeded EPA’s action level.

One report based on the Chicago water supply, implies that officials may be selecting certain homes and areas to give the best looking results. Lead piping was installed in Chicago until 1986 and in testing done over that period lead sapling never exceeded 5 parts per billion limit.  However when the EPA did its own sampling in 2011 it found  lead levels as high as 36.7 ppb.

Bottom line is that when it comes to the health and safety of your family do not compromise. Take back your tap by using the best filtration available.

 

For the most recent updates on the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper: Regulatory Revisions click here.

 

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