Lead in Water Pipes

Lead can get into tap water from your home plumbing. Public Health can provide advice on options for getting your tap water tested for lead and steps you can take to minimize your exposure to lead in tap water.

Lead can have harmful health effects, especially for infants, young children, pregnant women, and women who might become pregnant. Even low levels of lead may have harmful effects on the development of the brain and nervous system.

Canadians are exposed to lead through various sources, including food and consumer products, dirt and household dust and home plumbing.

Lead was previously widely used in the plumbing industry, and even today, some brass fixtures could contain lead that can get into tap water. Potential sources of lead in home plumbing include:

  • Water service lines made before 1960 (a service line is the water pipe that delivers water to your home from the main water supply outside your home)
  • Solder used to join pipes together before 1990
  • Some brass fixtures, such as faucets and valves

Testing your water for lead

To find out if your water has lead in it, contact the waterworks department in your city or town and ask about having your water tested. In some cases, you may have to arrange to have the water tested by a private accredited laboratory.

If you live in the City of Guelph, you may qualify to have your water tested for free. Call 519-822-1260 ext. 2263 or email leadtesting@guelph.ca.

Reducing your exposure to lead in tap water

If you are concerned there may be lead in your tap water, there are several steps you can take to reduce your exposure until you can test your water. If tests show you have elevated lead in your water, you should try to identify and remove any sources of lead from your plumbing.

Children under 6 years of age and pregnant women should use an alternate water source for drinking and cooking until any lead problems are fixed.

While you’re waiting for test results:

  • Use an NSF approved filter for your drinking and cooking water.
  • Before using your water each morning, run water from the drinking tap for at least 5 minutes (and again if water sits in your pipes for longer than 6 hours).
  • Always use cold water from the tap for drinking and cooking. Heated water may contain higher lead levels.
  • Do not boil the water because this can concentrate lead.

Identify and remove lead from your plumbing

  • Contact your municipal waterworks department for guidance on determining whether you may have a lead service line, and for options on replacing both City-owned and privately owned sections of lead service lines. The City of Guelph offers a lead service line replacement program.
  • Call a plumber or other qualified water-quality professional to help you identify lead pipes, lead-based solder and other sources of lead in your home’s plumbing.

If you’re concerned about lead exposure, your doctor can measure your blood lead level through a simple blood test.

Public health inspectors can answer questions you have about testing your water for lead and help you interpret the results.
Call 1-800-265-7293 ext. 4753.