Does your pasta contain lead? Another source of lead – faucet aerators

dripping faucetLead is a potent neurotoxin.  We strive to avoid exposure, particularly for our children.  Most of us know that we can find lead in old paint, dirt (from being used as a gasoline additive and weathering of painted buildings), contaminated toys, vinyl (lead is a stabilizer) and brass, including keys.  We also know that older pipes can have lead present, or that the solder joining pipes may have lead present.  Some of us even know that even newer pipes can have lead since federal law allows up to 8% lead in pipes.

For lead in our pipes, we know to let it run after standing 6 hours to reduce exposure to lead.  But what you may not think to do is to clean out your aerator.  You know – that mesh screen at the end of your faucet.  You need to clean it out regularly to prevent lead exposure.

I know you are asking what the heck am I talking about.  It turns out that those little mesh screens collect debris, including lead particles and flakes, mostly from breaking off in the pipes.  And as your water passes through that collection of lead on its way to making up baby formula or coffee, it collects lead.  Potentially enough to cause a significant exposure.

Science News reports about a lead contamination case from pasta.  Pasta!  The North Carolina boy didn’t drink tap water, but did eat a lot of his favorite food – pasta.  And the pasta was contaminated with lead.  Not because the pasta itself was contaminated, but because the water used to boil the pasta passed through an aerator that had a toxic collection of lead.  The lead research Marc Edwards stated that for that little boy, “it was essentially like eating a dime sized lead paint chip with every serving of pasta.”

That is truly frightening.  Children absorb 50% of the lead that reaches their digestive systems, as compared to adults, who only absorb 11%.  A staple size piece of lead can elevate a child’s blood lead levels to levels that have been shown to cause IQ deficits.

Is this really true?  Well, according to testing performed by Ivars Jaunakais, Industrial Test Systems, Inc., lead particles trapped in the mesh filter can be very high for lead.  And this is consistent with other testing – solid particles trapped in the water screen can contribute to lead in the water.

To avoid lead exposure from drinking water, the Smart Mama Simple Steps are:

  • Clean your aerators reguarly.  Once per quarter is recommended.  When you clean them, flush your system for 3 to 5 minutes without the aerator to flush any accumulated lead debris.

  • Flush your system if it has been unused for 6 hours.  Just run it at least one minute, or until you feel the temperatur change.

  • Use cold water for cooking and drinking.  Hot water dissolves lead more quickly than cold water, so use cold water from the tap to make formula, drinking, etc.

  • Consider a filtration system certified for lead removal.  Even those pitchers (make sure it isn’t polycarbonate plastic) that are certified for lead removal can reduce lead by as much as 93%!

  • Replace lead pipes, fittings and faucets.
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