How To Know If There's Lead In Your Water, Because You Can't See Or Taste It

by Caroline Burke
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Given the water crisis unfolding in Newark, New Jersey, finding out if there's lead in your water is a must if there's even the slightest possibility it's contaminated. Unfortunately, it's impossible to smell or taste the presence of lead in your water. However, there are several ways for you to ensure you're drinking clean water wherever you live.

According to Business Insider, the drinking water in Newark has shown lead levels that exceed the EPA's safety threshold three times over in the last two years. The city is now offering bottled water bottles en masse to the community as officials work to permanently remedy the problem, per The New York Times.

Of course, this isn't the first time in recent history that lead contamination has been a national issue. The Flint water crisis in Michigan began in 2012 and the city is still actively responding to the issue, according to CNN.

Primarily, lead contamination in water is an issue because of the health risks it poses; according to the EPA, lead poisoning can damage the central and nervous system, can impact fertility, and can lead to learning disabilities, among other significant symptoms. Since lead can't be detected by sight, smell, touch, feel, or taste, it requires you to do some actual testing or research to find out what chemicals are present in your water.

Here are three quick steps you can take to find out whether lead is present in your water supply:

Contact City Officials

The first thing you should do is call your municipal water supplier, according to CNN. Your water supplier is required by law to provide information to you about what's in your water. The news network suggests that you ask for your area's Consumer Confidence Report, which will list all levels of contaminants found in recent tests of the water in your area.

Per CNN, you'll want to see lead levels beneath "15 parts per billion." If you see levels above that amount, stop drinking the water immediately until the lead levels have decreased. You can also use this locater by the EPA to find the Consumer Confidence Report for your area, if it's available.

Find Out If Your Home Has Lead Plumbing

One way to get a sense of the risk of lead contamination in your home is to find out if your home has lead water pipes or faucets. Most houses with lead plumbing were built before 1986, CNN reports, but even if your house is newer it's possible that it has lead plumbing.

This video, released by the city of Hamilton in Canada provides an excellent tutorial for how you check your pipes for lead visually.

Use A Lead Testing Kit

If your water supplier isn't being helpful, you can get a home lead testing kit and check the lead levels in your water yourself. Most home improvement stores (like Lowes or Home Depot) should offer lead testing kits, both online and in store.

The EPA suggests that you send your results to a state-certified lab. You can find a full list of those labs on the EPA site. Additionally, your kit should provide specific instructions on what you need to do to test the water in your home. In general, though, most kits will likely require you to hold a strip underneath water to test for contaminants.

Once you find out what the lead levels in your water are, you can take the necessary steps to make sure your drinking water is safe. For example, you could start by installing a water filter that's specifically meant to filter out lead. And if the lead levels in your community are unsafe, you can also contact the leaders of your public water supply (this might take a little bit of research on your part, as this can be structured differently in different areas) and your representatives in D.C. to make sure they're taking aggressive measures to remedy the problem.