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Frequently Asked Questions about Lead

What is lead?

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead can be found in air, soil, dust, pottery, food and water.

How can I be exposed to lead?

The most common source of lead exposure is from paint in homes and buildings built before 1978. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978.

Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, lead also can be found in some household plumbing materials and some water service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

What are the risks of lead exposure?

Lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects when people are exposed to it. These effects may include increases in the blood pressure of some adults; delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children; and, deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children.

How does lead get into my drinking water?

Lead is rarely found naturally in our source water or in the treated water flowing through the distribution system. More commonly, lead leaches into water over time through corrosion—a dissolving or wearing of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. Lead can leach into water from pipes, solder, fixtures, faucets (brass) and fittings. The amount of lead in your water depends on the types and amounts of minerals in the water, how long the water stays in the pipes, the water’s alkalinity, corrosivity, pH and water temperature.

Is my home at risk for lead plumbing?

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency defines high-risk homes as follows:

  • Homes with a lead service line that connects the water main to your home’s internal plumbing;
  • Homes with copper pipe and lead solder built before 1988; and
  • Homes with lead pipes.

Older brass fixtures, such as faucets, valves and fittings, also may contain lead.

In 1986, Congress enacted the “lead ban,” which stated that not only public water systems, but also anyone else who intends to install or repair drinking water plumbing connected to a public water system, must use “lead free materials.” As a result, homes built in or after 1988 are far less likely to have lead solder.

I’m concerned my home may have lead plumbing. How can I find out?

If you’re concerned your home plumbing may contain lead pipes or if you see signs of corrosion (frequent leaks, rust-colored water), you may want to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. Since you cannot see, taste, or smell lead dissolved in water, testing is the only way to confirm if lead is present in your drinking water.

A list of certified laboratories is available on the TCEQ website. Contact labs directly for information on cost and sampling bottles.

The Fort Worth Water Department laboratory offers lead testing for $15 per sample. If you wish to have your water sampled, please call 817-392-4477.

All lead test results must be reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Will my water utility replace my lead service line?

Service line ownership is shared. Lead services lines on a customer’s property are not part of the public water system and are the responsibility of the property owner.

The utility owns the meter and the service line running from the water main to the meter. The private ownership begins with the line exiting the meter.

Fort Worth estimates about 2 percent of the city-owned service lines are lead. The utility is working to determine the exact location of all remaining lead service lines. For 20 years, Fort Worth has removed its lead service lines when they are found in the course of maintenance activities.

Fort Worth Water plans to remove all remaining city-owned lead service lines, but this will take several years to complete.

Fort Worth strongly advises that you contact a licensed plumber for work on your service line, or to determine if you have lead in your private plumbing components.