Here is how to make sure your family’s drinking water is lead-free

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CLEVELAND – You expect drinking water to be safe, but there could be a hidden danger that you can’t see or smell. Lead is a growing concern after high levels were detected in Flint, Michigan and in several Northeast Ohio communities.

Lead can enter your home when lead plumbing materials like pipes, fittings, and the solder holding them together corrode. Homes built before 1986 are most at risk. Since January, 2014 all newly installed pipes, fittings and fixtures must meet new lead-free requirements limiting lead to .25%.

“As a whole, the plumbing industry has gotten on board with it to try to eliminate lead being used in plumbing anymore,” said John Langer, President of H Jack’s Plumbing & Heating in Wickliffe.

If you're worried about lead in your water, first call your municipal water supplier; some test for free. You can also buy lead testing kits available at hardware stores for about $30 and test the water yourself in about ten minutes.

“It's a concern, particularly for young children,” said Dr. Dorr Dearborn, Pulmonologist with UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

He said high levels of lead in blood can affect brain development in children and cause kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults.

“If they've got elevated lead in these schools in other communities, that is surprising because there are longstanding U.S. EPA rules as to how to handle that,” Dearborn said.

If your water tests high for lead, experts recommend you stop drinking it and call your local water provider.

The Cleveland Water Department said it collects and tests 300 water samples per day and follows Ohio EPA standards. While it does not offer free in-home testing, a spokesperson said the department is currently reevaluating expanding the testing it offers.

For more information on lead in water, contact the U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791. Tips are available online from the EPA and CDC.