Posted by Jeff Wahl on 12/19/2020 to Water Contaminants
What is Lead?
Lead is a toxic heavy metal, for many years it was widely used in a variety of products. These included cosmetics, paint, solder, pipes, valves, fittings and plumbing. Canadian municipalities began phasing out the use of lead in service piping to properties in the 1960's. The National Plumbing Code permitted the use of lead until 1975 and lead solder until 1986.
Restrictions on lead content in brass fittings are much more recent with the newest requirements implemented in 2013. Health Canada published revised guidelines concerning lead in Canadian drinking water on March 8, 2019. The most significant change is the reduction of the maximum allowable concentration (MAC) of lead in drinking water, from 0.01 mg/L (set in 1992) to 0.005 mg/L.
What is the Concern about Lead?
Lead is toxic and can be harmful to human health, even in small amounts. It can pose a significant public health risk if ingested or dissolved in drinking water. Scientists agree there is no level of lead that is considered safe, and Health Canada recommends reducing levels as much as possible. Lead exposure, even at low levels, is especially risky for fetuses, babies and young children because it interferes with brain development. In adults lead exposure can also cause increased blood pressure or kidney problems.
Exposure Risks for Children
Reduced intelligence & IQ levels, behavioral problems
Delays in physical development and attention disorders
Effects on neurodevelopment
How Can I Test my Water for Lead?
To check for lead in water, it is important to know the source of your water. If you have a municipal water source, you can contact your municipality for information on testing in your city. If you live in the country, there are options to test with Licensed Laboratories, Water Treatment Dealers and local Health Units will have information on lead in your area. There is also an option for Single Use Lead Test Kits which can identify the presence of Lead and is a good place to start if you are concerned about Lead in your water.
Recent News about Lead in Canada
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians could be consuming tap water laced with high levels of lead leaching from aging infrastructure and plumbing, a large collection of newly released data and documents reveals. It’s a key conclusion of a year-long investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, including Global News and Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism.
Guidelines have been put in place asking that schools respect the guidelines put in place by Health Canada. On Oct. 23, 2019 the government announced they would become the first province to adopt the new acceptable minimal concentration of lead in drinking water — five micrograms per litre (5ug/L).
“There was a report put out in 2017 for three Island schools that exceeded lead levels in their drinking water, and that was done with an independent agency. There is definitively lead piping on Manitoulin Island and that’s scattered through a lot of the older communities, unfortunately,” said Jeff Wahl of Wahl Water, a Mindemoya based company that offers water treatment products and home testing services.
Test results that properly measure exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada. Out of 12,000 tests since 2014, one third — 33 per cent —exceeded the national safety guideline of 5 parts per billion.
How Can I Remove Lead from Water?
The Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA) recommends point-of-use Reverse Osmosis, Distillation and Activated Block Carbon filtration (for use only at pH 6.5 to 8.5) units to reduce lead in drinking water. Lead removal at or closest to the point of use is the most effective strategy. It is important the product or filtration device is marked certified to NSF/ANSI 53 or NSF/ANSI 58. These certifications are widely recognized voluntary consensus standards for evaluating and certifying drinking water treatment systems and reverse osmosis systems for the reduction of contaminants, including lead from drinking water.
Reverse osmosis (RO) involves the production of treated water passing through a semipermeable membrane, removing ions, molecules, and larger particles of harmful contaminants from the water. To help comprehend the scope of this, the human eye is able to see about 20 microns with standard 20/20 vision. The reverse osmosis membrane is rated at 0.0001 microns and according to the World Health Organization is “able to achieve higher removal rates (above 99%) for targeted pharmaceutical compounds in various studies in the published literature”.
Water is known as the universal solvent, and will break down to a very small size entering through the membrane. The contaminant is “rejected upon entry”, as it cannot break down. It is too large and will not “fit” through. This process is non selective and thus effective at removing and reducing the presence of a large amount of contaminants.
Enjoy the benefits of purified drinking water at your kitchen tap. No heavy bottles to transport and you will never have to refill when the bottle is empty. Reverse Osmosis Purified Drinking Water provides better tasting beverages, clearer ice cubes and removes contaminants such as chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, sodium, sediment and other chemicals. It helps to bring out the full flavour when making pastas, coffee, tea and soups.
Activated Carbon Filtration
Undesirable contaminants such as lead and cysts can exist in original water sources or pipes outside your home and can cause a variety of health issues. The Pentair Heavy Duty Lead Filtration System can reduce these contaminants before they enter your home. The system features a built-in flow restrictor that ensures fine filtration without sacrificing water pressure, while a proprietary Fibredyne cartridge technology enables 2x the flow efficiency of comparable competitive lead filters.
This filtration system is NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified and is capable of protecting a home or cottage where the water enters from lead. A great feature of this system is the built in bypass valve which makes filter changes simple. The kit includes the high flow filter housing, lead removal carbon block cartridge, mounting bracket and a wrench.
Pitcher Style Filters
A common way to treat water is the counter top pour through style water pitcher. Typically these do not include a lead removal cartridge and some do offer an optional filter for purchase for lead. Check the label for the NSF/ANSI 53 certification, if it is not on the package, the filter may not remove lead from the water.
Under Sink Water Filters
Another common way to treat water is the under sink single, dual or triple filter housing systems. They are widely available at hardware stores and installed by plumbers and water treatment dealers. Check the filtration cartridge labels for the NSF/ANSI 53 certification, if it is not on the package, the filter may not remove lead from the water.
A water distillation system is simply designed to purify your water in an inexpensive, quick, and effective way. You only need two things to set up simple distillation: a heat source and a condenser. Water has a lower boiling point than the contaminants and minerals within it. This means that if you boil untreated water, the water will turn into vapor and leave everything else behind. Then the condenser lets the steam return to liquid water in a separate area from where it started. This is the concept behind purifying water through distillation.
A common type is a single-effect distiller that can easily be set on your kitchen counter or in your office. You simply pour a measured quantity of water into the system and the water is distilled, collected, and filtered into a reserve for you to use. They are not a good option for large volume quantities of water or for commercial applications
These are units that can be installed into your home plumbing system or at your point of use. They distill water as you need it, making it a cost-efficient way to get the water distilled. They do require some maintenance, which includes draining off the sediments that accumulate at the bottom of the boiling chamber.
Larger operations use multiple-effect distillers that allow them to provide from 75 gallons up to millions of gallons of distilled water per day. They contain multiple boiling chambers, allowing for more water to be distilled at a time.
Proper water treatment equipment can reliably remove lead from water. Selecting the correct equipment with the proper certifications is important. If you are unsure, contact a certified water treatment professional for assistance.
Volume 4 – Issue 8 Wahl H2O - Water Awareness
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