7 Health Effects of Lead in Drinking Water

Some homes in the U.S. (especially those built before 1986) still contain lead service pipes, and lead can end up in drinking water when the lead pipes corrode. A person can have short-term effects from very high levels (lead poisoning), or display symptoms of long-term lead exposure at lower levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water “at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels”. The EPA also notes “there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood.” With that being said, here are seven possible health outcomes of lead exposure from water (and other sources)…


1. Lowered IQ in Children

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that although low doses of lead were once thought to be safe for children, “lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems”. In particular, lead can affect the development of a young child’s brain, resulting in a lower intelligence quotient (IQ) notes the source.

This exposure can also negatively affect a child’s attention span, as well as their educational attainment (number of grades completed), adds the source. Even the lowest lead concentrations of 5 micrograms per deciliter (once considered safe for children) can affect the intelligence and behavior of children, notes WHO.

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