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Lead found in Fries water

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No lead found at drinking water source, but pipes could be where metal is coming from

Staff Report

FRIES ― The Town of Fries alerted residents this month that a recent test of the water system found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes and buildings.

Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and children 6 years and younger.

According to a news release from the town, lead was detected in water samples collected during a routine sampling in 2015 and again during special sampling in July.

The town is evaluating changes to the treatment system, including adjusting water pH and adding new treatment chemicals to reduce the corrosivity of the drinking water.

“The source of water from Eagle Bottom Creek does not contain lead, nor is there any lead in the water mains in the street,” the town said in the release.

When water is in contact with pipes, service lines or plumbing that contains lead for several hours, the lead may enter drinking water.

The release included the following information about what Fries residents can do to reduce lead in drinking water.

Health Effects

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body from drinking water or other sources, including damage to the brain and kidneys, and interference with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.

Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones and it can be released later in life.

During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.

Sources of Lead

Lead is a common metal found in the environment. Drinking water is one possible source of lead exposure. The main sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust or soil and some plumbing materials.

In addition, lead can be found in certain types of pottery, pewter, brass fixtures, food and cosmetics. Other sources include exposure in the work place and exposure from certain hobbies (lead can be carried on clothing or shoes).

New brass faucets, fittings and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. Plumbing fixtures labeled National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified may only have up to 2 percent lead.

Consumers should be aware of this when choosing fixtures and take appropriate precautions.

Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have plumbing containing lead. New homes may also have lead; even “lead-free” plumbing may contain some lead.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of a person’s potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water. Infants who consume mostly formula mixed with lead-containing water can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

“Don’t forget about other sources of lead such as lead paint, lead dust, and lead in soil,” the release said. “Wash your children’s hands and toys often as they can come into contact with dirt and dust containing lead.”

Reducing Exposure

Steps to reducing exposure to lead in drinking water

1. Run water to flush out lead. Run water for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking, if it hasn’t been used for several hours. This flushes lead-containing water from the pipes.

2. Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.

3. Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.

4. Look for alternative sources or treatment of water, such as purchasing bottled water or a water filter. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead or contact NSF International at (800) NSF-8010 or visit www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality.

5. Test water for lead. Call (276) 744-3396 to find out about how to get water tested for lead or contact Environmental Management Services Inc. of Wytheville at (276) 228-6464.

6. Get children tested for lead. Contact the local health department or healthcare provider if concerned about exposure.

7. Identify if plumbing fixtures contain lead. New brass faucets, fittings and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. The law currently allows end-use brass fixtures, such as faucets, with up to 8 percent lead to be labeled as “lead-free.” Visit the NSF website at www.nsf.org to learn more about lead-containing plumbing fixtures.

For more information, call (276) 744-3396. For more information on reducing lead exposure around homes/buildings and the health effects of lead, visit EPA’s website at epa.gov/lead.