Lead (Pb) is a soft and heavy metal used in a surprisingly wide range of industrial applications and processes. It is a highly poisonous neurotoxin that can accumulate in both soft tissue and bone, leading to brain and nervous system disorders. Exposure to lead is especially dangerous for young and developing children. Most commonly it is introduced to the human body by ingestion of contaminated water and food, although it can be introduced through inhalation and direct contact as well.
Unfortunately, one of the most common methods of exposure is through contaminated drinking water. Homes and buildings built before 1986 regularly used lead pipes, fixtures and solder. Water, especially more acidic water, corrodes old pipes and fixtures like these over time and the lead dissolves into the water supply. (The Flint, Michigan water crisis was an example of this type of problem on a large scale. The water source itself was not contaminated, but instead the water was corroding old piping and lead was leaching into the water that way.) Once dissolved, lead is invisible, odorless and tasteless, making it extremely hard to detect without proper testing. Because lead is so dangerous and hard to detect, the EPA has set their maximum contaminant level goal for lead to zero. They recommend regular testing for lead contamination as well as using a water filter that is designed specifically to remove lead. To read more about what the EPA has to say about lead click here. Or read more from the Center for Disease Control.