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Lisa Scholl

Lisa Scholl


Lead in drinking water

If drinking water contains elevated levels of lead, it can pose a health hazard. The heavy metal, which is known for its high weight, was often used in the past for the construction of water pipes. It has since been banned, but the risk of lead pipes in homes persists. This article is about the consequences of lead in water and what you can do about it. There are also tips for tenants who have lead pipes in their homes.

If drinking water contains elevated levels of lead, it can pose a health hazard. The heavy metal, which is known for its high weight, was often used in the past for the construction of water pipes. It has since been banned, but the risk of lead pipes in homes persists.

This article is about the consequences of lead in water and what you can do about it. There are also tips for tenants who have lead pipes in their homes.

Is lead in tap water normal?

Until the 1970s, lead pipes were still installed in houses in Germany, especially in northern and eastern Germany. Especially in older buildings, the tap water can therefore become contaminated. To date, not all water pipes have been completely replaced.

Even pipes that have already been rehabilitated may have individual sections of lead remaining. As a result, the water is heavily contaminated and usually no longer complies with the limit of 0.010 milligrams of lead per liter permitted by the Federal Environment Agency.

At what point is lead in drinking water dangerous?

Lead in drinking water is a hazard to infants and young children even at low levels. It can attack their nervous system and cause long-term damage to mental development. Therefore, for children should be low-sodium water should be bought from the supermarket.

Lead also poses many dangers for adults. If you drink or wash with drinking water containing lead over a long period of time, the substance enters your body. It is deposited there and triggers chronic poisoning.

This requires an amount of 1 milligram per day. For children, even 0.1 milligrams is enough. The elevated lead concentrations in old piping make this easy to achieve.

What are the possible consequences of lead in drinking water?

Lead is deposited everywhere in the body. The heavy metal reaches the organs via the digestive system. It is deposited in the liver, brain and lungs. It could also be found in the teeth and bones. Over time, lead exposure gets higher and higher and becomes a real problem.

Lead attacks the nerves and the brain. It prevents the body from making blood. Organs such as the kidneys and digestive system can also be damaged. This leads to a number of diseases: Anemia, digestive problems and sensory disorders. Lead is also considered a trigger for cancer.

Children are particularly at risk from drinking water containing lead, as the pollutant can negatively affect the development of the nervous system. This can even happen in the womb when pregnant women consume water containing lead. The metal is passed on to the unborn child and can cause disorders in development and intelligence.

If there is a suspicion that the drinking water may be contaminated by lead pipes, caution is advised. The water should not be used for drinking or food preparation. For young children and pregnant women, store-bought water suitable for preparing infant formula should be used instead.

What can be done about lead in drinking water?

The first step in dealing with elevated lead levels in tap water is to look for lead pipes in the home. Lead pipes have a silvery-gray color. The material is so soft that it can be carved even with a fingernail. If you knock on the pipes, you will hear a muffled sound, which is different from the typical sound of a metal pipe.

The lead pipes should be replaced as soon as possible. This is the responsibility of the owner of the house. In the transitional period, resort to packaged water and let the tap water run for a while before use. This reduces the concentration of lead.

Filter drinking water

To avoid damage to health, one should not remain inactive in the event of elevated lead content in drinking water. Especially for children and pregnant women there is an increased risk.

A water filter can reduce lead contamination of drinking water. There are several types of filters that can remove the heavy metal from the water. Depending on which technology is used, the water filter has different properties.

Water filters with activated carbon particles can remove lead from drinking water. The pollutant is trapped by the structure of the activated carbon and remains in the filter. That is why the filter cartridge must be replaced regularly. In addition to lead, many other unwanted substances are also filtered out of the water.

Reverse osmosis systems filter drinking water through a semipermeable membrane. Almost all pollutants and deposits are removed in the process. This also includes lead. The filter makes water drinkable through osmosis water drinkable . Unlike other filters, the process is quite slow. Therefore, reverse osmosis systems often filter water into a storage tank. Thus, clean drinking water is always available. After the filtration process, the water should be remineralized, as minerals are also removed by the filter.

Some water filters use ion exchangers to purify the water. In the process, unwanted ions are bound and exchanged for sodium ions. Ion exchangers filter substances such as lead, lime, magnesium and copper from the water. Again, the filter must be cleaned periodically to function properly.

Should drinking water be boiled?

Boiling drinking water can provide hygienic benefits. Normally, tap water is of high quality, so it does not need to be boiled additionally. However, if the tap water has an increased germ load, the authorities will issue a warning and a recommendation to boil it.

The heavy metal lead cannot be removed from drinking water by boiling. Boiling even evaporates water, which can increase the concentration of the pollutant.

Are there lead pipes in new buildings as well?

Normally, there are no lead pipes in houses built after 1973. Due to health hazards, the material is no longer used for water pipes. Some faucets and fixtures still have small amounts of lead that can contaminate drinking water.

Does lead in drinking water constitute grounds for rent reduction?

First of all, it is necessary to find out where the pollution of the water comes from. If the lead comes from outside the house, the waterworks are responsible. They offer extensive information on local water quality. It is also their duty to guarantee that the limit value is complied with. Only if the contamination is caused by the lead pipes in the house, the landlord is responsible.

In order to obtain a rent reduction, the increased contamination of the drinking water by lead must be proven. This is typically done through a water test. The sample is analyzed in the laboratory for the concentration of various substances.

If the limit for lead in tap water is exceeded, tenants have special rights. One must inform the landlord about the test results, because exceeding the limits is an administrative offense. Subsequently, one can demand a rent reduction. How high this is decided on a case-by-case basis. In the past, it was between 5 and 10 percent of the rent. But the most important thing is the rehabilitation of the affected water pipes.

The homeowner must have the lead lines replaced as soon as possible. If the landlord fails to do so, tenants can take legal action against it. If the landlord cannot implement the renovation for financial or other reasons, tenants can terminate the lease without notice. In fact, the living space is not reasonable because of the lead levels in the water. If the lead limit is exceeded, it is an acute health hazard.

Filter water

Why should you treat water?

Turn on the tap, fill the glass – and the healthy drinking water is ready. However, this luxury is not always available on the road. Whether traveling in faraway countries or on a hiking tour in Germany: In order to be able to use water as drinking water, it should first be thoroughly treated and purified.

Even the drinking water from the tap is not everywhere completely free of harmful substances and impurities. For example, old lead water pipes can release the harmful metal into drinking water. The danger of legionella in tap water should also not be underestimated – especially in summer. Not only obviously contaminated water, but also supposedly clean groundwater therefore benefits from treatment before it can be used as drinking water.

This article explains which methods are available for water purification and which tools are useful.

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