Exposure to any lead throughout your life can have life-long, permanent health effects. So with all the street construction going on in New Orleans, what is the best way to reduce the lead in your water?
There is one method that stands out.
No matter where you live in Greater New Orleans, it is likely some level of lead is in your water. It may be low, or it can spike very high if service lines are being disrupted by construction.
Doctors have long known that lead exposure, especially for the young, is dangerous. It comes from the from the soil from old leaded gasoline, lead paint and from old city pipes that carry water.
"The goal is to absolutely reduce your exposure to zero, because even very low doses can impact the developing brain especially in infants," explained Dr. Adrienne Katner, an Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at LSU Health Sciences Center. She recently conducted the Lead Exposure Assessment for Drinking Water study.
Dr. Katner says the easiest, most efficient and cheapest way is to get filters that guarantee they remove lead and state they are NSF 53 certified. They can be on your faucet or in pitchers. They must be changed when you are signaled. And most importantly, you must cook with filtered water and make baby formula with it as well.
"I was surprised in my survey of New Orleans residents, how many actually said that they do drink unfiltered water and cook with unfiltered water. It was quite significant," Dr. Katner said.
If you're not using a filter, and there is no pipe line construction in your area, Dr. Katner recommends flushing your taps every morning for six minutes. But if there is pipe construction, the task is even more cumbersome.
Dr. Katner says you should shut the water line off outside while work is going on. After the pipeline is replaced, flush the system on high velocity for 10, 15, even 30 minutes. That includes your hose outside, and every tap in your house on every floor with cold water with the aerator screen on the end of the faucet removed. This has to be repeated several times in the month after the new pipe is put in by the parish.
Even bottled water may still have some lead in it.
"There is a large body of literature that shows how lead can impact behavior, attention, learning disabilities, especially in boys, it can be, cause sort of antisocial or violent behavior," Dr. Katner said.
Even if you use filters you should flush your lines after construction in your area for 30 minutes.
Showering and bathing is not a concern with lead exposure.
Unborn babies, infants, children and teens are most at risk because the brain is developing.
And lead can stay in your bones for decades and cause concern for pregnancies many years later.