Ever since the Flint water scandal, my husband and I have both been a bit more concerned about lead being in our water. We are fortunate enough to live in a city that does not flouridate its water…check to see what’s in your city’s water here, and we’ve always used a simple faucet filter, but we wanted to learn a little more.
So we ordered these testing strips and learned that our water had no noticeable levels of lead, chlorine, copper, or bacteria. And when I tested the water that came through the filter, I got the exact same results, so guess what? We ditched our filter. 🙂 Our water did test at being very hard (which is probably why the previous owners installed a water softener system), but after doing some research, I learned that having hard water means that it’s full of a lot of minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that are very good for your body, but will clog up your coffee pot tubes, shower heads, and leave dirty rings in your tub and toilet. We have opted to simply clean things out a bit more and enjoy the benefit of the extra minerals!
In this article, I’d like to share what I learned about the Flint water scandal, what’s so bad about having lead in your body, how to detoxify from lead poisoning, how to know if your water has lead, the best filters to get lead out of your water, and other sources that might lead to lead poisoning, .
The Flint Water Scandal
Basically, Flint’s state appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early, was faced with the task of saving the failing city money and on April 25, 2014, he oversaw the switch from Detroit’s water supply (that drew from Lake Huron) to the Flint River (while waiting for their own regional water system connection to Lake Huron to be built).
The contents of the water in the Flint River are actually not to blame for all of the lead. Instead, the blame lies with the high levels of chloride ions (present from the over deicing of the roads which causes chloride ions to run off into waterways) that are really to blame. Nick Krieger explains in his article, “What Makes Flint Water So Corrosive,”
“The negative chloride ions are corrosive, so when the high-chloride water is pumped through lead pipes (or iron and copper pipes joined together with lead solder), lead leaches into the water. It’s as simple as that.”
Flint could have added orthophosphate to neutralize these chloride ions for $100/day, but it chose not to. As a result, the lead pipes corroded and leached lead into the water. In addition, the corroded pipes allowed other contaminants such as bacteria from the soil that led to a spike in those contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease.
One of the most disturbing factors of the Flint water scandal were the people in charge who KNEW it was going on and yet did NOTHING!
On October 1st, 2104, 6 months after the switch to the Flint River, General Motors complained that its car parts were corroding when being washed on the assembly line, so they were quietly hooked back up to the Lake Huron Water. Meanwhile, residents complained about tainted, foul-smelling tap water and health symptoms such as rashes and hair loss from drinking and bathing in it, but nothing was done for them. It took ONE YEAR of complaints, independent tests, lawsuits, national, and global recognition and FINALLY in October of 2015, the switch back Lake Huron through Detroit’s water system was made. (Read A Toxic Timeline of Flint’s Water Fiasco for a truly flabbergasting timeline of events.)
Now, under the public eye, Flint is faced with the insurmountable task of replacing all of the corroded lead pipes, which could take over two years and cost upwards of $60 million! And what are residents of Flint supposed to do in the meantime? You can only drink and bathe in bottled water for so long…and not only that, but plastic water bottles leach chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the water. (Which is why we try to stick with glass water bottles when we can!)
What’s So Bad About Lead?
Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children whose bodies and brains are still developing and growing. There are no levels of lead in the blood that are considered safe for children. While lead exposure can be stopped, the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.
Even low levels of lead can cause the following side effects.
- Nervous system and kidney damage
- Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
- Speech, language, and behavior problems
- Poor muscle coordination
- Decreased muscle and bone growth
- Hearing damage
- Seizures, unconsciousness, and death
If adults ingest lead, 99% of it will leave in their waste in a couple of weeks. But with children, only about 32% of the lead taken in will leave in their waste. Under conditions of repeated exposure, lead (and other toxic metals…mercury, aluminum, cadmium) can accumulate in body tissues, even the bone. Even if you have removed the threat of lead, lead that has accumulated in the body can continue to do damage.
Get Lead (and Other Toxic Metals) Out of Your Body
If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to lead, go to your doctor (or free health clinic) to get a test done right away. They will be able to tell you after a simple finger poke if there is any lead present in your child’s blood and what the implications are. Lead that has accumulated in the body can take months or years to be expelled, so it’s a good idea to continue taking precautions to get rid of it long after the threat has been removed.
There are certain foods can help to get rid of lead accumulation in the body. The phytic acid present in all grains, seeds, nuts, etc. prevents our bodies from absorbing valuable minerals, but also chelates (binds to and removes) toxic metals from our bodies. One of the best sources for phytic acid is brown rice (that hasn’t been properly soaked and fermented to get rid of the phytic acid). Other sources would be any nuts, seeds, or anything “whole grain”.
Cilantro oil and chlorella are also really good at working in tandem to to eliminate lead (and other toxic metals) and they will actually add more vitamins and minerals to your body rather than leech them away! Get some cilantro oil here and some chlorella here. It’s also a good idea to take some really good vitamin c (not with ascorbic acid) to boost your immune system while you detoxify. *Check out some other great detox ideas here.
Check with your doctor or naturopath before starting a detox program with your child, but some general rules of thumb are to start with small doses using just a few drops at a time, and make sure it is really diluted with some other liquid.
Is There Lead in Your Water?
It’s not just Flint who has a problem with lead in their water source. In a Rolling Stone article by Tessa Stuart called, “It’s Not Just Flint: America Has a Major Lead-in-Water Problem” she explains that,
“There’s always going to be some amount of lead in some amount of homes — it could be from the service line, or from lead solder used as glue in some pipes, from leaded brass plumbing, or a myriad of other sources. “Most homes in the United States are going to have some form of lead-bearing plumbing,” Lambrinidou says.”
Check your water: You can go to the National Drinking Water Database, enter your zipcode, look for your city, and see exactly what they have found in your water.
Test your water: Or you can buy your own kit, like this, for $20 and it will test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrites/nitrates, chlorine, hardness, and pH.
Best Water Filters to Get the Lead (and Other Toxins) Out
If you decide that you want to filter your water (probably a good idea), here are some filters you might want to consider. (FYI: Stay away from reverse osmosis filters because they filter out EVERYTHING including all of the good minerals that you want to keep!)
Radiant Life 14-Stage Biocompatible Water Purification System ($1,595) – This is WAY out of our price range, but if you’re looking for the best of the best…It gets rid of ALL toxins, and you can tuck it away under your sink. (Also, if you’re trying to convince your significant other that you want to buy a $120 water filter, give them a choice between the $120 one and this one. The $120 one will suddenly seem like a much better deal!)
Berkey Complete Water Filtration System ($289) – This system is incredible! Not only will it work on city water, but you can take it with you camping to use on some pond water! It will filter out bacteria, parasites, pesticides, nitrites, nitrates, and gets rid of 99.9% of heavy metals (including lead and mercury). This model also comes with flouride filters.
- AquaCera HCP Counter-Top Filter System ($120) – This is cheaper than the Berkey and takes up less room on the counter (or you can get an under the counter version for $261). It filters out bacteria, parasites, 99% of chlorine, 99% of lead, 98% of other heavy metals, 95% of arsenic, 99.9% of glyphosates, 92% of nitrates, and gives an 85% reduction in flouride. It easily connects to a standard faucet with no tools and requires no electricity or permanent modifications to plumbing.
- Culligan FM-15A Advanced Faucet Filter Kit ($21.70) – This is what we currently use. It basically just filters out chlorine and lead. This has worked well for us so far, but we may be looking to upgrade.
Lead Isn’t Just In Water
In 1978, the government banned the use of lead based paint in houses, so most homes built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead. When the paint chips and peels, children are especially susceptible to ingesting it because little fingers like to pick and peal and those little paint chips and then they don’t wash their hands before eating food. Not only that, but the dust from the peeling lead paint can be inhaled.
If there are no chips or scratches, you can paint over the lead based paint, and keep painting it every 4-10 years to prevent any from showing through. If there are, it’s best to call in a professional to remove the paint…or just move!
The Flint water scandal was an eye opening headline that got everybody thinking about what is in our water. We bath in it, we cook with it, we water our garden with it, and we drink it…so it’s good to know what we’re taking in with our water. I highly recommend getting your water tested, and if you live in an old house, do some research about lead paint. I also highly recommend getting your children tested for lead poisoning if you have any doubt or even just to ease your mind.