The BWSC and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority monitor the quality of Boston's drinking water to ensure that it is safe to drink and complies with Federal and State drinking water quality requirements. Read BWSC's annual Drinking Water Quality Report.
The MWRA tests over 1,600 water quality samples per month, from the reservoirs all the way to household taps. Annual and monthly test results are posted by the MWRA on its website.
BWSC is concerned about lead in drinking water. Lead in drinking water is rarely the sole cause lead poisoning. However, it can increase a person's total lead exposure, particularly the exposure to infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing.
The water provided by BWSC and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is lead-free when it leaves the reservoirs. MWRA and BWSC's distribution pipes that carry the water are made mostly of iron and steel and do not add lead to water. However, lead can get into tap water through home service piping, lead solder, and some brass fixtures. The corrosion or wearing away of these lead-based materials can add lead to tap water, particularly if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use.
Lead & Your Drinking Water
Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person's total lead exposure, particularly the exposure to infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated juices that are mixed with water. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20% or more of a person's total exposure to lead.
Lead is unusual among drinking water contaminants in that it seldom occurs naturally in water supplies like rivers and lakes. Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, brass and chrome-plated brass faucets, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect your house to the water main, also known as a service line. In 1986, Congress banned the use of lead solder containing greater than 0.2% lead, and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes and other plumbing materials to 8.0%.
When water stands in lead pipes or plumbing systems containing lead for several hours or more, the lead may dissolve into your drinking water. This means the first water drawn from the tap in the morning, or later in the afternoon after returning from work or school, can contain fairly high levels of lead.
Lead & Your Health
Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in lead-based paint, air, soil, household dust, food, tap water, and certain types of pottery porcelain, brass fixtures, and pewter. Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body. Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Amounts of lead that won't hurt adults can slow down normal mental and physical development of growing bodies. In addition, a child at play often comes into contact with sources of lead contamination - like dirt and dust - that rarely affect an adult. It is important to wash children's hands and toys often and to try to make sure they only put food in their mouths.
Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child may receive lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.
A health care professional can perform a blood test for lead and provide you with information about the health effects of lead.
Reducing Lead Exposure
Find out how the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) is taking steps to stop lead from getting into your tap water and steps you can take to reduce your lead exposure.
Sources of Lead
Whether you live in an apartment or single family home, in an old or new neighborhood, lead is in your environment. It can be found in lead-based paint, soil, household dust, food, tap water, and certain types of pottery, porcelain, and pewter. Lead can pose a risk to your health if too much of it enters the body. Most cases of lead poisoning are from contact with peeling lead paint and lead paint dust. While lead in tap water is rarely the single cause of lead poisoning, it can increase a person's total lead exposure, particularly in infants who drink baby formula or concentrated juices that are mixed with water.
Lead Replacement Incentive Program
If the service line at your property is made of lead, you are encouraged to utilize the Lead Replacement Incentive Program to replace it and protect the health of residents in the building.
Lead Testing Centers
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) certifies laboratories to analyze water for certain contaminants.
Visit the MWRA's website to obtain a list of laboratories certified by DEP to analyze drinking water for lead.
Other Lead Resources
Boston Public Health Commission or 617-534-5965
For information about the effects of lead exposure in children.
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority or 617-242-5323
For information about your community's water supply, and a list of local laboratories that have been certified by DEP for testing water quality.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health or 1-800-532-9571
For information about the health effects of lead and how you can have your child's blood tested.
Environmental Protection Agency or 800-424-LEAD
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection or 617-292-5770
For information about where lead is found and how to protect your family.
Lead Safe Boston or 617-635-0190
Technical and financial assistance with grants of up to $8,500.00 per unit to remove lead-based paint from your home.