Frequent Questions

Is there a safe level of lead in drinking water for children?

EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bio-accumulate in the body over time. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends intervention when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or greater. It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. Therefore, the amount of lead a child can be exposed to in drinking water before exceeding the recommended blood level depends upon the amount of lead coming from these other sources. Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

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