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How to test water for lead

As long as you are not testing for lead for compensation (lead risk assessor or inspector) The following procedure is much easier than any of the alternatives such as scraping and lead check swabs. And definitely better than the home water test kits found in stores or online.

How to test water for lead

Testing for lead in water is very simple and cheap

  • Purchase four 500 or 750 mL sterile (clean) plastic containers shaped like a shampoo bottle (sometimes free at a laboratory)
  • Do not run water in the home for 6-10 hours
  • Mark the four containers as follows, “Faucet”, “Pipes”, “Feed” and “Supply”
  • Remove screen/filter from kitchen faucet
  • After waiting the allotted time, turn the kitchen faucet on cold and fill the first container labeled “faucet”and set aside.
  • Keep running the faucet on cold approximately 20 seconds and now fill the container labeled “pipes”. This will give you an approximate value of contaminants in the pipes within your house.
  • Now run the faucet until you feel a major temperature change, sometimes 2-7 minutes depending on the size of the house. After you feel the colder temperature change and the water is now coming from outside of the home, fill the container labeled “feed”. This will give you an approximate value of contaminants in the pipes leading to your home.
  • Now let the faucet run for approximately 20 minutes and fill the last container labeled “supply”. This will give you an approximate value of the contaminants from your supplier or what’s more commonly referred to as “street pipes” and/or “water supply”.

You can perform additional tests on items such as hot water and ice from an ice maker, etc.

Make sure all containers are labeled and lids are tightly sealed. Drop them off at your closest Certified laboratory. A list can be obtained from your state.

Request an “All metals” or “Lead and Copper” analysis which will cost you approximately $7-$10 per sample.

It only takes 30 minutes to perform this type of testing and it cost less than 50 bucks.

If test 1 lead content is higher than the federal/state regulated level for potable water (EPA action level is 15 ppb) and the other test results are not, then time to change your faucet.

Test 2: If the content of lead is higher than allowed by law and the other test results are not then the pipes within your home are leaded or contain leaded solder.

Test 3: If the content of lead is higher than allowed by law and the other test results are not then the pipes leading to your home may be leaded.

Test 4: If the content of lead is higher than allowed by law and the other test results are not then the water supply may be leaded.

Obviously figuring out the source would have other variations ( such as multiple tests simultaneously having higher amounts than allowed by law) which would complicate it a little bit but it’s not that hard to figure out.

Keep in mind that some laboratories request a “first draw” sample before analyzing multiple samples and then give you additional containers to perform more testing if the first result is higher than allowed by law.

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