Frequently asked questions
1. What is Lead?
Lead is a metal that was commonly used in:
Plumbing pipes and fixtures
Homes built before 1978 are more likely to have lead-based paint
Gasoline (banned in 1995)
2. How can I be exposed to lead?
Most exposure to lead is from paint dust, paint chips, and soil contaminated with lead. Lead can also get into your body by drinking or cooking with water containing lead. Young children’s bodies absorb lead more easily than adults, and lead can be passed from a mother to her unborn child. For these reasons, lead in drinking water can be a source of exposure for pregnant women, young children, and infants that are fed powdered formula.
Lead is not absorbed through the skin. Bathing or showering in water containing lead is okay.
3. How does lead get into the water supply?
Lead can enter drinking water when service pipes or plumbing inside a home contain lead and corrode, or break down. Lead from these pipes, faucets, or fixtures can get into the water, especially hot water.
5. What should I do if I’m concerned about lead in my drinking water?
There are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of exposure to lead in drinking water:
- Use a water filter certified to reduce lead in the water (NSF 53 filters are certified to remove lead from water). It is important to replace the filter’s cartridge as recommended by the manufacturer.
- If you do not have a filter and have not used your water for 6 hours or more, flush your pipes to reduce the amount of lead in your drinking water. You can flush your pipes by running your faucets, taking a shower, running a load of laundry, or doing a load of dishes for at least 5 minutes. After flushing, run the water from your faucet until cold before drinking or cooking with the water.
- After flushing your pipes, you can use cold water from your faucet for drinking, cooking, and for rinsing fruits and vegetables. Do not use hot tap water for these activities.
- Use bottled or filtered water for making powdered baby formula. You can also use Ready to Feed (RTF) formula. If you are a WIC client, you can call the Central Michigan District Health Department at (989) 539-6731, option 2.
- Do not heat or boil your water to remove lead. Hot water will increase the amount of lead in the water.
- You can use cold water from your faucet for brushing your teeth.
- You can shower or bathe with the water.
- Clean your faucets’ aerators or screens at least every 6 months. For more information on how to clean your aerator, see the “Cleaning Your Aerators” fact sheet.
6. Why does flushing the water before drinking make it safe?
Lead can enter drinking water when it comes in contact with pipes or plumbing fixtures that have lead service lines or internal plumbing made with lead. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. The most important thing you can do is run your water for at least 5 minutes before you drink, cook, or use your water for washing fruits and/or vegetables.
7. What are some of the health problems lead can cause?
Lead in drinking water can enter your blood and build up in the body over time. Children under 6 years old are most at risk of harm to their health. If you are pregnant, lead can harm your unborn baby. Adults are less likely than children to be harmed by lead in water.
Lead exposure in babies and young children can cause serious health problems. Some of the health problems may never go away. Lead in a child’s body can:
- Slow down growth and development
- Damage hearing and speech
- Make it hard to pay attention and learn
Unborn babies build bone from calcium found in their mother’s bones. When calcium is released from the mother’s bones to her unborn baby, lead stored in her bones is released too. Lead can also cross the placenta. Lead can:
- Reduce growth of their unborn baby including the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
- Cause premature birth
- Cause a miscarriage
Good nutrition is one way to protect your family from lead. Include calcium, iron, and vitamin C in your family’s diet. This may help keep lead from being absorbed in the body.
Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about exposure to lead from drinking water or other sources. Your doctor may choose to order a lead blood test. A lead blood test can tell you how much lead may be in your blood.
8. Where can I get my child’s blood tested for lead?
Talk to your local health department or doctor for more information.
9. What does an "elevated blood lead level" mean?
In Michigan, a blood lead level (BLL) of five (5) micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or higher is considered elevated, or high. Most people who have an elevated blood lead level do not look or act sick. A blood lead test is the only way to determine a blood lead level. Talk with your doctor or the Central Michigan District Health Department about getting a lead test for your child if:
- You believe your child has been exposed to lead
- Your child is at risk of lead exposure
10. Should I have my child tested for lead?
Children under the age of 6 are at the highest risk for elevated blood lead levels. Lead can harm a child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn. Lead exposure happens when children come in contact with lead, generally from lead-based paint, or possibly from lead plumbing supplying drinking water. A simple blood test can determine the level of lead in your child's blood. Contact your family doctor or the Central Michigan District Health Department to ask about getting a lead test for your child if you believe they may be at risk of lead exposure.
11. Where can I go to get my water tested?
City of Clare residents can call the City at (989) 424-4071.
12. How was lead in the water discovered?
This lead exceedance was discovered through routine monitoring of the water supply by the city.
13. What else is Central Michigan District Health Department doing?
Central Michigan District Health Department monitors elevated blood lead levels in at-risk children. Our public health nurses provide individualized case management, education, and resources for families who have children with elevated blood lead levels to help them identify lead exposure risks and create a healthy home.
14. What about restaurants in the City of Clare? What are the recommendations?
Food establishments, including licensed restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, food processors and food warehouses are recommended to have their water tested to see if it contains lead. Safe water results can be posted to inform consumers. Testing can be coordinated through a EGLE Certified Laboratory for Lead and Copper Testing. Unless the water has been tested and is found not to have a lead concern, water should be flushed for a minimum of 5 minutes each day after a period of 6+ hours without use. Facilities can also use an NSF Standard 53 Certified water filter on the faucet where drinking water is obtained from. Facilities should follow these recommendations for their machinery and facilities.
4. How can I prevent being exposed to lead in my water?
Flushing for at least 5 minutes can be an effective way to limit your exposure to lead from your water. You can flush your pipes by running your faucets, taking a shower, running a load of laundry, or doing a load of dishes for at least 5 minutes. After flushing, run the water from your faucet until cold before drinking or cooking with the water.
You can also use a water filter certified to reduce lead in the water (NSF 53 filters are certified to remove lead from water). It is important to replace the filter’s cartridge as recommended by the manufacturer.