In The Water:
It is no secret that the Portland metro area has high levels of lead in the the drinking water. Recent reports have only increased this concern. We are here to help you better understand the source of the lead and ways to prevent exposure.
Portland’s drinking water comes from two high-quality sources– the Bull Run Watershed and Columbia South Shore Well Field. Our source waters meet or exceed all federal and state drinking water standards. However, water from both sources have high acidity levels making it very corrosive. In Portland, the major source of lead in drinking water is from the corrosion of household and building plumbing materials containing lead. The water itself nor the citywide distribution system contains lead.
The two most common sources are:
- Lead-based solder to join copper pipe – commonly used in homes and buildings built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985.
- Brass components and faucets installed before 2014.
Almost one in six homes in the Portland Water Bureau’s service area–about 43,000 homes built between 1970 and 1985–are considered at greatest risk for high-lead exposure.
Since 1997, the Portland Water Bureau has been adding sodium hydroxide to increase the pH of the drinking water to make it less corrosive. This treatment has resulted in up to a 70% reduction in lead in water levels at customer taps.
Testing for lead in water:
In order for a test to be done, water has to sit undisturbed in your household pipes for a minimum of 6 hours, best results at 12 hours. So that means no flushing the toilet, no showering or washing dishes. After the water has sat, a small sample of the first drip from the tap is taken. This sample tests for lead in the faucet fixture. A second sample is taken of water after the tap has been fully turned on. This sample tests for lead in the pipes. The federal limit on lead is the water is 15 ppb. Anything above that is cause for concern. The Portland Water Bureau provides free lead-in-water testing. Go here for more info.
How to reduce exposure to lead in water:
- Run your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to flush out lead if your water has not been used for several hours.
- Use cold, fresh water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily in hot water.
- Boiling water will not remove lead.
- Consider using a filter. Check different manufacturers- not all filter lead. Here is a helpful guide.
- Buy low-lead fixtures. As of 2014, Federal law requires brass faucets to contain no more than .25% lead. (These fixtures are labeled as “lead-free.”)
- Test your water for lead.
- Test your child for lead. Remember, children ages 1-5 are the most prone to lead poisoning.
- Contact the Leadline with questions and concerns 503.988.4000 firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to lead in the water, we must all be aware of lead in paint. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint. Lead from paint, including lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.
Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is in good shape, the lead paint is usually not a problem. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Surfaces that children can chew or get a lot of use such as windows, doors, stairs, railings and porches can also be a hazard.
Test for lead in paint:
- Buy a DIY lead paint testing kit. There are only two widely available and EPA- approved kits: the Klean-Strip D-Lead Paint testing kit and the 3M Lead Check Swabs. Both employ color change technology for quick results. You need to make sure and remove not just the surface paint, but any layers below, since the house may have been repainted with non-lead paint many times.
- For best results, hire a professional. Many use a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine and/or take a paint sample to be analyzed in a lab. The state has provided a list of certified lead abatement firms here.
How to reduce exposure to lead in paint:
- Keep paint in good shape and clean up dust regularly.
- Do not remove lead-based paint by yourself. Hire a professional.
- Get your home checked for lead hazards.
- During renovations, either leave the home entirely, or avoid the space best you can. Make sure to hire an EPA or state approved Lead-Safe certified renovation firm.
- Remove your shoes before entering the home. Lead dust can be tracked into your home from soil outside that is contaminated by deteriorated exterior lead-based paint and other lead sources, such as industrial pollution and past use of leaded gasoline.
- Wash children’s hands, toys, and pacifiers regularly.
- Make sure children eat healthy low fat food high in iron, calcium and vitamin C- all known to block lead from being absorbed in the body.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. We are always available to chat.