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Can you get too much lead from tap water?

  1. Almost all tap water in the Netherlands is safe to drink. There are laws for the maximum amount of lead. But there are a few exceptions. There may be too much lead in the tap water: if you still have lead pipes in your home. the first 3 months that your home has new pipes or taps, for example in a new-build home. You can then follow the advice below.

Advice for lead pipes

  1. Have the lead water pipes replaced as soon as possible. For babies, children up to and including 7 years old and pregnant women: Do not drink water from a tap with lead pipes. Use bottled or tap water from non-lead pipes, also for drinking tea and coffee. Use bottled water or tap water from non-lead pipes for products that absorb some water during cooking, such as pasta, rice, and couscous. Also use bottled water or tap water from non-lead pipes for making soups and sauces. Since most vegetables and potatoes absorb little moisture, you can boil them in tap water from lead pipes. Rinsing fruit and vegetables, for example, with tap water from lead pipes is also harmless. Make infant formula with water from non-lead pipes. For example with bottled water from the store. On the packaging of the water you can read whether the bottled water is suitable for making bottle feeding. For children over 8 years old, adults, breastfeeding women and the elderly: Let replace the lead pipes as soon as possible. Do not drink for a long time water from a tap with lead pipes. Want do you temporarily drink water from the tap until the pipes are replaced? This is possible if you know where the lead pipe is and how long it is. Then you can calculate how long you need to flush the tap. The water you end up with drinks, may not have stood still in the lead. This is how you calculate how many liters you have to let flow: A lead water pipe contains about 1 liter of water per 5 meters. Suppose that the pipe is 10 meters long, you have to let 2 liters of water flow before you can use the water that comes out of the tap temporarily. If you don't know where the lead pipe is and how long it is, then drink no water from lead pipes. Then follow the advice that applies to babies, children up to and including 7 years and pregnant women. How do you know if you have lead pipes? Check out this image.

  2. Have the lead water pipes replaced as soon as possible. For babies, children up to and including 7 years old and pregnant women: Do not drink water from a tap with lead pipes. Use bottled or tap water from non-lead pipes, also for drinking tea and coffee. Use bottled water or tap water from non-lead pipes for products that absorb some water during cooking, such as pasta, rice, and couscous. Also use bottled water or tap water from non-lead pipes for making soups and sauces. Since most vegetables and potatoes absorb little moisture, you can boil them in tap water from lead pipes. Also, rinsing fruit and vegetables with tap water from lead pipes is also harmless. Make infant formula with water from non-lead pipes. For example with bottled water from the store. On the packaging of the water you can read whether the bottled water is suitable for making bottle feeding. For children over 8 years old, adults, breastfeeding women and the elderly: Let replace the lead pipes as soon as possible. Do not drink for a long time water from a tap with lead pipes. Want do you temporarily drink water from the tap until the pipes are replaced? This is possible if you know where the lead pipe is and how long it is. Then you can calculate how long you need to flush the tap. The water you end up with drinks, may not have stood still in the lead. This is how you calculate how many liters you should let flow: A lead water pipe contains about 1 liter of water per 5 meters. Suppose that the pipe is 10 meters long, you have to let 2 liters of water flow before you can use the water that comes out of the tap temporarily. If you don't know where the lead pipe is and how long it is, then drink no water from lead pipes. Then follow the advice that applies to babies, children up to and including 7 years and pregnant women. How do you know if you have lead pipes? Check out this image.

Advice on new water pipes, new taps and new houses

  1. These recommendations apply for the first 3 months: Have you not used the new water pipe for more than 6 hours? For example, when using it for the first time in the morning or after a working day? Then let the tap run for about 2 minutes before using the water. Do not use this (first) water to drink immediately or for coffee or tea. Also do not use it for soups and sauces or for cooking products that absorb water such as pasta, rice or couscous. Also, do not use it to bottle-feed babies. Use this first rinse water for something else. For example, wash your hands or fruit and vegetables. You can also use it for cleaning or watering the plants. You can drink the water that comes out of the tap after 2 minutes or use it for the preparation of food and bottle feeding. Do you only have a new tap? Then it is enough to flush for 10 seconds before each use. Then you can drink the water again or use it for cooking. These recommendations expire after 3 months. You can then simply use the tap water from new taps, new pipes and new-build homes for food and drink.

  2. These recommendations apply for the first 3 months: Have you not used the new water pipe for more than 6 hours? For example, when using it for the first time in the morning or after a working day? Then let the tap run for about 2 minutes before using the water. Do not use this (first) water for immediate drinking or for coffee or tea. Also, do not use it for soups and sauces or for cooking products that absorb water such as pasta, rice or couscous. Also, don't use it to bottle-feed babies. Use this first rinse water for something else. For example, wash your hands or fruit and vegetables. You can also use it for cleaning or watering the plants. You can drink or use the water that comes out of the tap after 2 minutes to prepare food and bottle feeding. Do you only have a new tap? Then it is enough to flush for 10 seconds before each use. Then you can drink the water again or use it for cooking. These recommendations expire after 3 months. You can then simply use the tap water from new taps, new pipes and new-build homes for food and drink.

How does lead get into tap water?

  1. Lead was once used in many materials and for various purposes, such as roofing, in paint and in gasoline. This use stopped in 2004. This led to a decrease in the amount of lead in the environment. Lead was also often used in drinking water pipes. Since 1960, the construction of lead water pipes has no longer been allowed, but old houses sometimes still have lead water pipes. Newly built houses or houses with new pipes or taps can also temporarily contain more lead in the water. This is because lead can then be temporarily released by the new materials. In either case, this can lead to higher lead intake than what is considered safe.

Can you remove lead from water by boiling or filtering the water?

  1. Boiling water does not help against lead. There are filters on the market that are claimed to remove lead, but it is not possible to say with certainty which filters will work satisfactorily.

What are the effects of lead?

  1. Exposure to lead can disrupt the development of the central nervous system in children and lower the IQ in children. In adults it may increase the risk of kidney disease or higher blood pressure. Lead is very poisonous. Lead intake should therefore be as low as possible. However, it is difficult to prevent the presence of lead in foods, because it occurs in the environment (for example in the soil). That is why a maximum permitted level for lead in foodstuffs has been set in the European Union. There are also legal requirements in the EU for the maximum permitted level of lead in drinking water.

Lead in Dutch tap water

  1. The lead content in Dutch tap water is low. Nevertheless, research by the RIVM from 2019 shows that pregnant women, bottle-fed children and young children up to and including 7 years old can ingest too much lead through tap water. This is only the case if they still have lead water pipes at home, or if they drink water from pipes that are not yet sufficiently flushed in new-build homes.

More information

  1. The Health Council's advice on lead in drinking water The RIVM report on lead intake via tap water



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