The District still has about 42,000 water service lines with lead in them, according to a D.C. Council-commissioned report released in September 2022. These pipes can leach the heavy metal into the water used for cooking and drinking. , especially for children. 

DC Water has committed to replacing every lead service line in the District by 2030, but the city will need to make some major changes in order to meet that goal. Councilmembers Janeese Lewis-George and Brooke Pinto both introduced legislation that would make some of those changes. But even in the best-case scenario, thousands of D.C. households will wait years to get the lead pipes removed from their homes鈥攁nd Black and low-income families are more vulnerable to the impacts of exposure.聽

Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce lead exposure from your family鈥檚 water. We spoke to Dr. Olanrewaju Falusi, a longtime pediatrician at Children鈥檚 National in Columbia Heights and a former president of the DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to get her top tips for preventing and watching out for lead exposure in kids. 

  1. Check your home鈥檚 service line material online

DC Water maintains of the city鈥檚 service lines, which are the pipes that connect water mains to homes and other buildings. You can search for your address to find out what your service line is made of at

Each point on the map has information about the part of the pipe that runs from the water main to the curb, called the 鈥減ublic-side鈥 service line, as well as the 鈥減rivate-side鈥 part of the pipe that runs from the curb to the building. Each building is marked with a circle cut in half. If both halves of the circle are green, your pipe is fully non-lead. Gray indicates a lead service line, and white indicates that the material is unknown. 

If you click on the circle at your address, you can find more specific information on what your service line is made out of. That鈥檚 important because pipes made of brass and galvanized iron may still contain lead; in 2020, D.C. Council added them to the service lines slated for replacement. 

  1. Install a filter at your tap or use a pitcher filter

If your home鈥檚 service lines are lead, brass, galvanized iron, or even copper鈥攚hich often uses lead solder to join together segments of pipe鈥攊t鈥檚 a good idea to use a water filter for drinking and cooking, especially if you have children in your household. It鈥檚 also important to replace the filters on-schedule, according to the manufacturer鈥檚 instructions. 

Look for filters labeled 鈥淣SF Standard 53.鈥 Water filters certified by the National Sanitation Foundation for that standard keep 99% of lead from reaching the drinking glass or cooking pot. Prices vary, but that attaches to a faucet head can cost as little as $20. 

  1. Use cool water鈥攂oiling your water will not decrease lead concentration

Lead is more likely to dissolve in warm water. Use cold tap water instead and heat it separately on the stove or in the microwave if it needs to be warm.

However, unlike bacterial contaminants, boiling water does nothing to reduce lead. In fact, it increases the concentration of lead in the water, because some of the water evaporates while the same amount of lead remains. 

鈥淚f you’re mixing up formula, or giving drinking water to babies, and you’re using tap water, it鈥檚 best to use cold, filtered water,鈥 Dr. Falusi said. 鈥淪ometimes people think, 鈥極h, if I boil my water, then it’s safer.鈥 It’s actually the opposite for lead.鈥

  1. Get your child screened for lead on time: twice before age 2

Children in their blood once around their first birthday and again around their second. This is the time when children are most likely to be exposed and the time when lead exposure is most dangerous. 

鈥淓ven though lead can cause sometimes irreversible brain damage, the quicker we address it, the better the outcomes are for children,鈥 Dr. Falusi said. 

Only about a third of D.C.鈥檚 children are screened for lead, according to Janet Phoenix, a public health expert focused on environmental-related health issues like lead exposure and childhood asthma. Many District children are tested just before starting kindergarten. By that time, lead levels would have dropped even if the child was exposed earlier, when they were more vulnerable. 

  1. Connect with your pediatrician

Symptoms for lead poisoning are hard to detect, but if your child starts experiencing unusual mood changes, stomachaches, or headaches, reach out to your doctor. While these symptoms have many different causes, your pediatrician may want to conduct a lead screening test just in case. 

鈥淭he thing about lead is that no level is really considered safe. And it can be very deceptive because the symptoms are often vague,鈥 Dr. Falusi said. 鈥淭hat’s what makes it tough to say, 鈥極h, that is definitely a child who has been impacted by lead.鈥 We don’t know unless we check.鈥

  1. Check for other sources of lead

In recent years, drinking water rarely causes acute lead poisoning in the District. If your child is experiencing noticeable symptoms, the exposure is more likely to come from paint, soil, or lead objects your child has put in their mouth. 
If your house was built prior to 1978, you may want to . The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also for containing too-high lead content.

Kayla Benjamin covers climate change & environmental justice for the Informer as a full-time reporter through the Report for America program. Prior to her time here, she worked at 老澳门开奖网ian Magazine...

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