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Lead and Your Drinking Water

Glass filled with drinking water from tap, isolated on the white background.

There has been a lot in the news lately about the water quality issues in Flint, Michigan concerning lead in their drinking water. Flint’s issues center around pipes, water treatment and corrosion are very removed from what is happening around the country and here in the Portland metro area, where elevated levels of lead are seldom detected in drinking water.

Water sources in the region rarely contain detectable levels of lead. Regional water supplies consistently meet or are better than all federal and state drinking water standards. Regionally, water providers have not used lead service lines in their water distribution systems.

The main source of lead in drinking water is typically from household plumbing. This is usually lead solder that was used in homes built or plumbed with copper pipes before 1985, when lead was banned for use in household plumbing construction. Lead can also be found in brass plumbing fixtures and components.

Water providers are required to regularly test for lead and manage their systems to reduce lead exposure by managing corrosion in pipes through treatment. In the Portland area, lead-based paint is the most common source of lead exposure.
If you are concerned about lead levels in your drinking water, contact your water provider.  Here are some things you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water:


  • Run your water to flush out lead. If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run the water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before drinking or cooking.
  • Use cold, fresh water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not use water from the hot tap to cook, drink, or make baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Consider using a filter. Confirm the filter is approved to reduce lead. Always maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality. Contact NSF International at (800) NSF-8010 or www.nsf.org for information on performance standards for water filters.
  • Test your child for lead. Ask your physician or call the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 to find out how to have your child tested for lead. A blood lead level test is the only way to know if your child is being exposed to lead.
  • Consider buying low-lead fixtures. As of January 4, 2014 all pipes, fittings, and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25% lead. When buying new fixtures, consumers should seek out those with the lowest lead content. Visit www.nsf.org to learn more about lead content in plumbing fixtures.
  • Regularly clean your faucet aerator. Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in your faucet aerator. Regularly cleaning every few months will remove these particles and reduce your exposure to lead.