Lead solder was commonly used in plumbing materials before the year 1986. The danger lies in the corrosion of these supplies over many years of use, causing a higher concentration of lead in the tap water. The EPA concedes that an 8% lead concentration is, by federal law considered, "lead-free."
According to the EPA, "lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure."
Multnomah County's page on lead contamination warns that even newer plumbing systems pose danger, "The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water."
The best strategies for avoiding lead in your water are:
- Consider buying a water filter.
- Flush out the pipes if you haven't run the water in a while. By passing up the water that's been sitting in the pipes you may be avoiding greater lead contamination.
- Always use cold water for drinking- especially for infants.
- You can also request a free test kit from Multnomah County here.