Lead in your drinking water
Learn about the health effects of lead in your water and the reasons why it may be an issue in your home.
What is it?
Lead is a naturally occurring, very soft, dense and moldable bluish-grey metal. Much of its presence in the environment stems from:
- Paint in homes built before 1978. Chipping, peeling or sanding paint can release lead into the air, household dust and soil.
- Dust inside homes. Dust can contain lead, especially in older homes that have lead-based paint. When you open and close windows or doors with lead paint, lead dust is created. Babies and young children often put their hands into their mouths after touching surfaces with dust such as floors.
- Some soils. Use of lead in products such as gasoline, paint and pesticides in the past contributes to the amount of lead found in soil. Lead does not break down over time, and is often found in areas close to where it was used in the past. Soil can be a source of lead exposure for children when they play outside.
- Drinking water in most North American cities because lead pipes were used in homes built before the 1960s and lead-containing soldering joints were used until the late 1980s. Lead can get into drinking water from valve parts or gaskets, older water service lines and indoor plumbing.
- Food or drinks stored in ceramic dishes, pottery or crystal glassware made outside Canada.
- Some toys and children's jewellery made outside Canada.
- Older PVC mini blinds.
- Clothes and shoes of people who work in lead-related industries, such as painters, automobile repairers, battery makers, stained glass makers and construction workers.
Health risks from lead
People who are at a higher risk of health effects from lead are:
- Children six years of age and under
- Pregnant women
- Women planning a pregnancy
Exposure to environmental lead sources can affect your health and the health of your children. Chronic exposure to lead can cause:
- Nervous system and kidney damage
- Learning disabilities
- Attention Deficit Disorder
Contact your doctor if you would like to find out if you or your children have high blood lead levels.
Protecting your family from lead
To reduce your family’s exposure to lead:
- If you live in a home built before 1978, clean up any peeling or chipping paint and make sure that your children do not play with or eat any paint chips.
- If you think your window or door frames have lead based paint, wipe them down with a wet cloth often, especially if they are opened and closed regularly.
- Check your home’s plumbing and the pipe that connects your house to the city water main for lead.
- If you are not sure if you have lead water service pipes, call 905- 546-2489 and request to have a Check Size and Type Inspection.
- Learn about how to reduce lead in tap water and how to replace your lead service pipes
- If you have lead in your plumbing, use an NSF-53 certified water filter approved for lead reduction for drinking; making food, juice, coffee or tea; and making baby formula.
- The City of Hamilton has implemented a Corrosion Control Program to help protect residents from lead exposure in drinking water due to the presence of lead water pipes, lead based fixtures and lead solder.
- Check toys and other items in your home for lead.
- Wash hands before meals and before going to bed
- Take shoes off at the door
- Wash toys, bottles and pacifiers often
- Mop or wash the floor often
- Take down old PVC mini-blinds
- Take off work clothes at work and wash separately from clothes worn at home if you are exposed to lead at work
- Do not store food in glazed pottery from other countries
- During home renovations take safety measures such as sealing off and ventilating the area being renovated; keeping children and pregnant women out of the area; vacuuming and mopping the area every day; wearing safety masks, coveralls and gloves