Lead Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Lead in Water from Pipes and Plumbing
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, like its pliability and resistance to leaks which were useful in plumbing, it can be toxic to humans and animals. Lead can also be found in paint, dust, soil, drinking water, and consumer products. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates up to 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead comes from drinking water. Formula fed infants can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.
What are the health effects of lead?
Lead is harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Babies and young children are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead at low levels. There is no safe exposure to lead, especially for children. While everyone can be affected by lead, children under 6 and pregnant women are most vulnerable. Lead affects the health of children, pregnant women, and adults differently. For more information about the health effects of lead in drinking water, visit the EPA at www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/basic-information-about-lead-drinking-water#health/ or click here.
How does lead enter drinking water?
Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode or wear away. This chemical reaction depends on the water’s chemistry. Lead enters drinking water through your home’s plumbing. Water service lines are pipes that connect homes to the City’s water main. In homes with lead service lines, the most common exposure to lead in water is those pipes. In homes without lead service lines, the most common exposure to lead is with chrome-plated brass faucets and plumbing with lead solder. There are no known lead service lines in Rolling Meadows.
Does the City of Rolling Meadows test for lead?
Yes, the City of Rolling Meadows performs regular testing for lead throughout the distribution system, as required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). The results are posted within the City’s Annual Water Quality report. You can review the City of Rolling Meadows’s Annual Water Quality Reports here.
The City performs testing at 30 sites every three years. Results from the last round of testing are below. Rolling Meadows is in full compliance with the IEPA and USEPA.
90th Percentile (parts per billion)
# of Sites over Action Level
However, the City does not offer testing at individual homes. If you want to test your water, IEPA maintains a list of Certified Labs for Analysis of Lead in Drinking Water, which can be found here.
How much lead in water is too much?
Lead can be harmful even at very low levels and can accumulate in our bodies over time. No exposure to lead is considered “safe.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a blood lead “reference value” of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, equivalent to 35 parts per billion – the same concentration as a golf ball in a swimming pool. This value represents the top 2.5% of children under 5 with the highest blood lead levels. For more information, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/ or click here.
The EPA has created a lead action level of 15 parts per billion, which is the same concentration as one ounce in an Olympic swimming pool. All water systems must publish annual drinking water quality reports; find your local Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) at Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) (epa.gov) or you can visit the City’s website to see the City’s Annual Water Quality Reports from past years: www.cityrm.org/Archive.aspx?AMID=45 or click here.
What does the City of Rolling Meadows do to protect my household from lead?
There are no known lead service lines in Rolling Meadows. The City of Rolling Meadows is required by the State of Illinois to routinely monitor for lead which has not, and is not, currently found within the drinking water supply. The City purchases its drinking water from the City of Chicago via NSM-JAWA. To prevent lead from dissolving into water from lead service lines or home plumbing, Chicago adds a very small amount of phosphate, a mineral found in many foods, to prevent lead from leaching into water, a process known as corrosion control. Although corrosion control can reduce the risk of exposure to lead, the best way to assure your home is safe from lead exposure through water is to remove potential sources of lead.
What has been done to reduce lead in drinking water?
Starting in 1988, the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibited the use of lead in pipes or connecting fixtures, like flux or solder, in public water systems and indoor plumbing. Lead service lines are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1988. In Illinois, the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act (LSLRNA) went into effect January 2022. The LSLRNA requires all communities to identify and replace all lead service lines. The City is committed to meeting the requirements of the LSLRNA and currently is in process of completing their water service line material inventory. There are no known lead service lines in Rolling Meadows.
To determine your service line material, please complete this survey or contact Rolling Meadows Public Works at 847-963-0500 from 7:00AM to 3:30PM, Monday – Friday.
To see the material of your water service line or check the status of Rolling Meadows’s inventory, click here!
Is water the only source of lead in homes and businesses?
No. Lead in drinking water generally represents only about 20% of total exposure, according to the CDC. The most common exposure to lead is swallowing and breathing in lead paint chips and dust. However, drinking water can account for more than half of lead exposure in children. Additionally, since no level of lead is considered safe, eliminating potential sources of lead is recommended.
Figure 1: Lead in the Environment Infographic from the CDC
How do I know if I have a lead service line?
You may be able to determine on your own if your service line is made of lead. Service lines typically enter the home in the basement or crawl space. If the pipe is lead, it will have a dull finish that shines brightly when scratched with a key or coin. Using a magnet can also help you identify a lead pipe, because even a strong magnet will not cling to lead. If you have determined your service line material, please fill out Rolling Meadows’ Service Line Inventory Survey here.
Does my house have lead plumbing?
Starting in 1988, the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibited the use of any lead pipe, flux, or solder in public water systems or indoor plumbing up to a certain percentage. At the time, the “lead-free” was defined as solder and flux with no more than 0.2% lead and plumbing products (pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures) with no more than 8%. As of 2014, lead-free plumbing products must contain less than 0.25% lead. Therefore, older fixtures, like faucets and aerators, could leach lead into your water.
What can I do to reduce lead exposure from my drinking water?
The best way to reduce lead exposure from your drinking water is to remove all sources of lead. But there are also steps you can take right away to reduce lead levels in your water.
- Filter the Water – Many home water filters are effective at removing lead. If you purchase a filter, make sure it is certified to NSF/ANSI 53 and NSF/ANSI 42 for lead reduction and that you maintain it properly. Find out more on filter certification at www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/articles/contaminant-reduction-claims-guide.
- Run the Tap Before Use – Lead levels are likely at their highest when water has been sitting in a lead pipe for several hours. Clear this water from your pipes by running the cold water for 3-5 minutes before using. This allows you to draw fresh water from the City’s water main. In efforts to conserve water, you can use this water on house plants or to flush toilets.
- Use Cold Water for Cooking and Drinking – Always cook and prepare baby formula with cold water, because hot water dissolves lead more quickly, resulting in higher levels in water.
- Clean Aerators – Aerators are small attachments at the tips of faucets which regulate the flow of water. They can accumulate small particles of lead in their screens. It is a good idea to remove your aerators at least monthly and clean them out.
Households with pregnant women, infants, or young children should be especially aware of the potential for lead exposure through drinking water.
Are there steps I can take to protect my developing baby, infant, or young children?
If you suspect there may be lead in your home plumbing, consider having your water tested. If lead is detected, consider purchasing a filter certified for lead removal or using an alternate source of water until the problem is corrected. Babies and young children are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead at low levels. The City regularly tests for lead in the drinking water at a selected number of service locations.
Do all home filters and other water treatment devices remove lead?
No. If you purchase a water filter or home treatment device, make sure it is independently certified for lead removal and that you maintain it properly. Find out more on filter certification at www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/articles/contaminant-reduction-claims-guide.
Can my pets drink water with lead?
Lead can impact animals the same way it does humans. The best way to protect people and pets from lead is to remove all sources of lead in your home.
Is it safe to shower in water that contains lead?
Lead is not absorbed through the skin, therefore bathing or showering in water containing lead is not considered a health risk.
I’m in a new house. Am I at risk?
Starting in 1988, the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibited the use of any lead pipe, flux, or solder in public water systems or indoor plumbing. Lead service lines are more likely to be found in older cities and homes built before 1988. The City is conducting in-home visits and conducting an online and a paper survey. There are no known lead service lines in Rolling Meadows. If you have any questions, contact Rolling Meadows Public Works at 847-963-0500 from 7:00AM to 3:30PM, Monday – Friday.
Who owns the service line?
In the City of Rolling Meadows, service lines are owned by the City from the main up to the B-Box. The remainder of the water service, from the B-Box into the building, is owned and maintained by the property owner. Replacing the entire lead service line is therefore a shared responsibility between the City and each property owner.
Where can I find more information?
- For information on lead in drinking water and steps you can take to minimize exposure, call the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.
- For more information regarding sources of lead and health effects of lead exposure, visit the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/.
- For local water quality information, visit the City of Rolling Meadows’s Annual Water Quality Report posted here. If you would like to discuss the issue with a local contact, call the Public Works Department at 847-963-0500 from 7:00AM to 3:30PM, Monday – Friday.
- To complete the Water Service Material Survey, click here!
- To see Rolling Meadow’s Water Service Line Material Inventory Map, click here!