KRON4 News Investigates: How to test for lead in your water

Lead pipes

(KRON)  KRON4 News is investigating lead in Bay Area drinking.  In our series of stories KRON4 News has explored the dangers of lead, how it effects children and what is being done to detect poisonous situations in homes and schools.

Now KRON4 is asking do you really know what’s in your water? More importantly how do you find out?


In the Bay Area most lead contamination problems happen inside an individual building or home. Rusting lead or copper pipes or outdated fixtures are usually the source of the contamination. Following the alarming events in Flint, Michigan where the entire water delivery system was found to have lead, water districts and home owners have been putting extra precautions into place.

Q: What’s so bad about lead and copper?

A: Exposure to lead can cause behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children, and kidney ailments in adults. Short-term exposure to copper can cause gastrointestinal distress, while long-term exposure can damage the liver or kidneys.

Q: How do these chemicals get into school water?

A: The problems mostly can be traced to aging buildings with lead pipes, older drinking fountains and water fixtures that have parts made with lead. The average age of school buildings dates to the 1970s. Lead pipes were banned in 1986. Brass fixtures were ordered to be virtually lead-free in 2014.

Q: Do schools and day care centers have to test for lead?

A: Most schools are not required to do testing. Only schools and day care centers that operate their own water systems — that’s about one of every ten — are required to test for lead, under federal rules. The 90,000 public and private schools and day care facilities relying on treated water from municipal systems are not required to test, although some do, in the interest of safety.


The only way to know if there is lead in your water is to test it.

There are a number of do it yourself test kits you can buy at your local hardware store. KRON4’s online research found those kits range from $10 to $50.

Most kits require you to send your results away to a lab, however there are kits that will give you immediate results.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of certified labs in California for testing drinking water.


Water delivery agencies around the Bay Area and across California are required to test for contaminates to make sure the water is safe to drink and free of toxins including lead.

Each Bay Area water district draws from different sources and each source has its own unique water quality characteristics.

East Bay MUD tells KRON4 News that it tests its water daily. EBMUD has spent years removing service lines from the World War II era that can deposit lead into the water supply.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission also has information online and the Santa Clara Valley water districts have online resources on how they test for lead and other toxins in their supplies.

The Environmental Protection Agency has an entire section dedicated to lead in water.



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