Does Boiling Water Remove Lead? Let’s Find Out!

Author: Rory Mullan - Published: 2022/02/11 - Updated: 2022/06/06

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Though natural water rarely contains lead, it can enter your water supply from the plumbing system or distribution channels. Both well and tap water can be affected.

Now, boiling water kills bacteria. But is it also a feasible option to remove lead from your drinking water? Time to find out!

So, here is our guide answering the question, does boiling water remove lead.

Does Boiling Water Remove Lead?

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People often advise boiling water in order to remove contaminants. However, it works only to some extent. For instance, boiling water kills viruses, bacteria and other harmful microbes, but that’s all there is to the process and nothing else.

When you boil water, it doesn’t remove any pollutants unless they are volatile and have a boiling point equal to or less than water, like chlorine for instance, but certainly not lead.

In reality, when boiling water, you might actually increase the level of lead. That is, boiling water evaporates and reduces the overall amount of water, whereas the amount of lead stays consistent.

Therefore, an efficient water filtration system works best to remove lead.

So, does boiling water remove lead? No, it does not, and there are no two ways about it.

What is Lead Exactly?

Lead makes up around 0.00013% of the earth’s crust[1] and is bluish-gray in color. You can find this metal in your surroundings, including soil, water and air. Besides, human activities like manufacturing, fossil fuel burning and mining have also contributed to lead distribution throughout the environment.

Manufacturers also use lead to prepare different items like batteries, paint and ceramics.

This explains why some countries have restricted the use of lead-made items to reduce pollution.

The good news, lead levels in our bodies are far less than they were several years back.

Consequences of Having Lead in Your Drinking Water

Consumption and inhalation of lead can lead to severe health problems, and the Flint crisis[2] is a living example of that.

By drinking lead-contaminated water for extended periods, dozens of children became sick, and 9 died.

Signs and Symptoms of Lead Exposure

Even if your home water supply has low lead levels, you’re at risk. Lead, even in small amounts, can cause serious health issues.

Common symptoms[3] associated with lead consumption include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing loss

Lead ingestion can also lead to more severe health complications, including heart problems, kidney issues, high blood pressure and reproductive problems for both genders.

Pregnant women are at an even greater risk because the heavy metal can cross the placental barrier leading to premature birth or miscarriage.

Kids, on the other hand, experience more dire consequences. For instance, children who grow up drinking lead-laden water might experience loss of concentration, inhibited physical growth, brain damage and more.

All in all, it’s best to take precautionary measures to avoid severe health consequences due to lead consumption later on.

Is There a Safe Amount of Lead in Water?

Unfortunately, no amount of lead in drinking water is considered safe. Lead, more or less, must be removed to ensure maximum safety.

Even if you consume low levels of lead, over time, it accumulates in your body and will result in health problems eventually.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends zero lead concentration in drinking water and suggests the actionable level to 15 parts per billion.

The maximum allowable lead in bottled water is 5 ppb – not more.

This explains that even low amounts of lead in water can have deleterious health effects.

From poor physical development to a damaged brain, these irreversible outcomes need to be taken very serious. That’s why health experts suggest restricting the use of lead in our everyday lives.

city of flint water plant

How Lead Leaches into Your Water Supply

Natural water hardly contains lead. However, it can leach into your water supply from various sources.

Lead plumbing systems and distribution networks are the primary lead sources. This was the reason Congress restricted lead pipes in 1986.

Unfortunately, many US houses are still on distribution networks containing lead pipes. Or they simply never replaced their old piping. Additionally, old lead solder can be found in houses built before the 1980s.

But even if your home pipes and solder are made out of copper thinking you’re on the safe side, you might be wrong.

A survey conducted by the American Water Works Association highlights that almost 6.1 million water distribution channels in the US still contain lead.

So, if you’re on one of those distribution lines, you’re exposed to lead; otherwise, you’re safe.

Besides, low pH levels corrode pipes, contributing to even more lead entering your water supply.

For those on a private well, the risk of lead contamination is relatively low. Then again, an old pump can also contaminate your water.

How to Find Out About the Presence of Lead in Water

Before choosing a lead water filter, it is imperative to learn about your water’s biochemistry. Only then will you be able to go for an appropriate purification method.

Besides, lead doesn’t affect your water’s taste or smell and is neither visible. Therefore, you cannot make a guess about its presence. Instead, opting for a standardized test is the only viable option.

Tests

Here are three ways to know about lead concentrations in your home water supply.

  1. DIY testing. DIY lead water testing kits are quite cheap. On top of that, they give instant results. But are they accurate? I’m afraid not!
  2. Water quality report. Water suppliers publish annual water quality reports outlining contaminants found throughout the year. You can access yours at the EPA’s website. Just know that these reports might lack precision as they may not take the lead from plumbing and distribution lines into consideration.
  3. Lab tests are by far the most reliable way to know about lead levels in your water. However, note that lead in water is unpredictable, and a single test might not highlight the exact amount. Therefore, conducting several tests is the best thing you can do. A lab expert will provide you with accurate results and suggest appropriate treatment solutions, which is another plus.

On Removing Lead from Water

Getting rid of all lead sources, including well pumps, solder and pipes, is the only way to prevent lead from entering your water. But this option can cost you a pretty penny. On top of that, if the distribution lines are to blame, you won’t be able to do much about it.

So, going for a lead water filter is a practical solution at this point.

Do Water Filters Offer an Effective Way to Remove Lead?

Certain water filtration systems offer an efficient way to remove/reduce lead. However, not all filters work for the cause. Here are the ones you can use:

  • RO systems can effectively remove up to 99.9% of lead from your home drinking water.
  • KDF + ion-exchange is a combination that works great to eliminate lead from water.
  • Carbon-based filters. Activated carbon filters, especially block carbon, can remove lead and target chemicals, too. However, not all carbon filters are designed for this.
  • A water distiller uses evaporation to eliminate contaminants from drinking water. The pollutants are left behind, and the condenser collects all the purified water.

The best way to learn about a water filter’s quality is to check it for NSF certifications. These certifications indicate that a product works just as well as the company claims.

NSF standard 58 is for reverse osmosis systems, and NSF standard 53 is for regular water filters.

However, an NSF 53 or 58 certified water filter doesn’t guarantee it will remove lead. Both these standards cover several water contaminants, so it’s best to look at the laboratory reports to know about lead reduction.

Also, some filters work better than others. So, before purchasing a lead filtration system, compare the amount of lead each can eliminate and go for the one that removes most.

under sink reverse osmosis system with storage tank

Additional Methods for Lead Reduction

The right filter offers an effective way to get rid of undesired lead in water.

Above that, there are other ways to limit lead exposure, if not eliminate it entirely. They may not be very practical, but they work for the time being.

  • Do not use hot water straight from the tap for drinking or cooking purposes. Undoubtedly, hot water has more lead than cold water.
  • When water remains in contact with lead pipes for prolonged periods, it enhances the risk of lead contamination. Simply put, when you do not use your water overnight, the amount of lead in it increases. So, flush some water in the morning before utilizing it.

Conclusion

Boiling water does not remove lead.

Thus, you should make sure to look into other water treatment methods like reverse osmosis, because lead in drinking water is highly dangerous and there is no safe level.

You can find out how much lead your water contains by running a test.

Based on that information you can buy the ideal lead water filter.

Without a filter, make sure to flush taps in the morning before using the water.

Further Reading

Resources

Meet Rory Mullan

Rory Mullan Rory has joined the Water Masterz team as a contributing writer. He has covered all sorts of topics in the last several years.

Outside of his writing work, Rory enjoys photographing the Irish landscape and making music!

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