10 Tips for Reducing Lead Exposure in People and Pets

By Leah_Pet on Jul. 5, 2017

It’s been three years since the residents of Flint, Michigan began battling the water crisis that ultimately made the name "Flint" synonymous with "lead poisoning"; and today, they’re still dealing with the aftermath. Scores of children have been poisoned and at least twelve people have died of Legionnaires’ disease as a result of drinking the contaminated water. The effects on the community’s pets may never be fully known.

However, the issue of lead exposure isn’t a purely Flint, Michigan concern. Currently, more than 5,000 water systems in the US are in violation of the EPA’s lead and copper rules, affecting at least 18 million people across the country. What affects people, can also affects pets, so shedding light on this pressing issue is important for all of us.

If you’re worried about lead levels in your household’s drinking water (or from other sources), here are a few things you can do to ensure your family – whether its finned, feathered, furry or 100% human – is taking the correct preventative measures to reduce the chances of lead exposure: 

1) Call your municipal water supplier. They can give you a copy of their Consumer Confidence Report. Or you can look it up at New reports are generally posted yearly after July 1st.

2) Find out if you have lead water pipes in your home. You can call your city to see what records they have on the lines coming in from the water main. Simply ask: "Does the service pipe at my street header pipe have lead in it?"). In addition, have an expert test the service line inside your home. 

One quick trick to test your home’s main service line: Scrape it with a screwdriver. If the metal is soft and turns shiny where you scrape it, it’s most likely lead. Additionally, if it’s lead or copper, a magnet will not stick to it, but if it’s steel, the magnet will hold. Homes built after 1986 generally do not have to worry about this, as lead was banned that year in both pipes and soldering.

Why this is important: An estimated 6 million lead service lines are still in use across the US, especially in older cities.

3) Get your water tested. Some local water suppliers will come out to test it for free. If that’s not an option, you can purchase a kit from a home improvement store just be sure to examine the very first drops of water that come out of your pipes after sitting overnight! This will capture the greatest accumulation of toxins you may be exposed to.

4) Buy a lead-free garden hose. This is especially vital if you’re filling up your pet’s water dish outside. Choose one made from rubber or food-grade polyurethane that specifically states it’s lead-free and drinking water safe.

5) Install filters on your faucets. Using a faucet filter, designed to purify drinking and cooking water, can go a long way in easing concerns. Be sure to select one that clearly lists out which contaminants it screens for, including lead. 


6) Watch those window blinds. Some non-glossy, vinyl mini blinds imported from China, Taiwan, Mexico and Indonesia may contain lead. As the blinds slowly break down, a fine lead dust accumulates on them, which can be ingested by family members. This is particularly important if you have a cat who likes to chew on the blinds, like mine does!

7) Choose new toys. Don’t allow pets or children to play with (or chew on) imported toys or older toys that have been in your family for generations. There’s a good chance toys may contain lead in them if they were made before 1978 or if there are currently made in a country where lead is still legal in toys. 



8) Be careful with costume jewelry or vending machine baubles. These sometimes test positive for lead and can somehow be irresistible to certain children or pets who are drawn to putting shiny things into their mouths.

9) Dine smarter. Chances are your pet’s not drinking out of leaded crystal glassware, but make sure to avoid using lead-glazed pottery for food as well. 


10) Garden with care. Place gardens away from roadsides and older, painted structures to limit the amount of lead that is in contact with the soil. Don’t allow children or pets to eat fruits or vegetables until they’ve been thoroughly washed. And, if possible, have soil from your garden site tested by your local EPA office and inform the office if you intend to grow edibles on the land. Soils with lead levels below 330 ppm are usually safe for growing vegetables. While you’re at it, be sure to water your plants with that lead-free hose!

The silver (or perhaps, lead) lining to the tragedy that took place in Flint Michigan is an increased awareness nationwide of the importance of having clean, accessible drinking water for all and the devastating effects of lead exposure can inflict on the vulnerable. By taking preventative measures, you can play a critical role in protecting yourself, your family and your pets from being affected by this common toxin.

If you’re wondering what’s currently going on in Flint, Michigan:

In January 2017, lead and copper in Flint’s drinking water had finally been reduced to acceptable levels. However, residents still cannot drink it until the city’s 20,000 lead-tainted pipes have been replaced. According to Mayor Karen Weaver residents should continue to drink bottled water and use filters, which are available for free from distribution points around the city. By 2020, the residents of all affected households in Flint may finally be able to drink a cold glass of water straight from the tap, without fear.

Six officials involved in the manmade crisis have been charged with felonies, including involuntary manslaughter charges for five of them. These charges stemmed from more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including twelve fatalities, that were linked to the water in Flint.

The Flint water system is still in violation of the EPA’s lead and copper rules and will continue to be until its pipes are all compliant. However, it is currently one of the most monitored systems in the country for lead and copper.

About the Author
  • As a child Leah used to write in her journal about how she’d like to be an animal when she grew up. As luck would have it, she grew up to be a writer who writes about animals instead. She has worked in veterinarian clinics, had pets of all types and has fostered many cats and dogs. Currently she lives with two cats named Irma and Yuyu and feeds a bevvy of semi-feral neighborhood cats.
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