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    Onondaga County Health Department is nationally accredited and meets rigorous public health standards necessary to best serve the needs of our community.

    Drinking Water Quality: Lead


    What are the health effects of lead?


    The EPA has determined that lead in drinking water is a health concern at certain levels of exposure.  Lead is found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery porcelain and pewter, and water.  Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body.  Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys.  The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women.  Amounts of lead that will not hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies.  In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination - like dirt and dust - that rarely affect an adult.  It is important to wash children’s hands and toys often, and to try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.


    Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person’s total lead exposure, particularly the exposure of children under the age of 6. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead.  


    How does lead enter our water?


    Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like groundwater, rivers and lakes.  Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and in building plumbing.  These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass, and chrome-plated brass faucets.  


    In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder and flux containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials used in new installations or repairs to a maximum level of 8%, which was at the time considered “lead free.”  However, the lead in the “lead free” plumbing materials meeting the 1986 requirements is still subject to corrosion.  In 2014 the limit for new installations and repairs was lowered to 0.25%.  Construction predating June 1986 may have plumbing components with lead levels up to 50%.  When water stands in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into the drinking water.  This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning may contain fairly high levels of lead.

    EPA Concerned About Lead in Your Drinking Water?  Sources of LEAD in Drinking Water Infographic





    How do I learn about the quality of water supplied to my house?


    Annual Water Quality Reports (AWQR)


    How do I have the water tested at my house?


    There is one approved laboratory for lead testing in potable drinking water in Onondaga County:  


    Life Science Laboratories, Inc.

    5854 Butternut Drive

    East Syracuse, NY 13057



    For a complete list of other ELAP Certified Commercial Labs in New York State:



    How can I reduce my exposure to lead that may be in the drinking water in my home?                              


    Run your water for at least 30 seconds or until it becomes cold and reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking if it hasn't been used in several hours to flush out lead. This reduces the concentration of lead-containing water from the pipes and fixture.

    Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap as lead dissolves more easily into hot water.  Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.  


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


    Additional information


    NY State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – Lead in Drinking Water


    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water


    EPA - Concerned About Lead in Your Drinking Water? Sources of LEAD in Drinking Water (PDF)


    EPA - Lead In Your Drinking Water Actions You Can Take To Reduce Lead in Drinking Water (PDF)


    Onondaga County Lead Poisoning Control Program



    Drinking Water Quality: Lead in Schools


    Subpart 67-4 Lead Testing in School Drinking Water Regulations


    United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Toolkit


    EPA - 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools (2018 Revised Manual) (PDF)


    EPA 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools Manual Highlights           EPA 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water Checklist


                         3Ts Manual Highlights                                             The 3Ts Checklist



    NY State Department of Health (NYSDOH) – Lead Testing of School Drinking Water


    NYSDOH - Lead Testing in School Drinking Water 2020 Compliance Requirements Presentation (PDF)


    NYSDOH - QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE Recommendations for Sampling Lead in NYS School Drinking Water (PDF)


    NYSDOH - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS For School Buildings and Grounds Personnel Lead in NYS School Drinking Water (PDF)


    NYSDOH - "Substantial Compliance” Waivers (PDF)


    NYSDOH – Sampling for Lead in Drinking Water in NYS Schools Video:



    Schools With Their Own Drinking Water Source:


    Lead and Copper Rule:  A Quick Reference Guide for Schools and Child Care Facilities that are Regulated Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (PDF)


    EPA - Drinking Water Best Management Practices For Schools and Child Care Facilities With Their Own Drinking Water Source (PDF)




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