Do Water Heaters contain Lead?

Water Heaters can contain Lead

Water Heaters contain metals that will corrode over time, and can leach into the water in the tank.  Certain contaminants, like lead solder, can be found in older pipe systems.  The lead ban was enacted in 1986, and so many plumbing parts contain small (“acceptable”) amounts of lead.  Contaminants tend to dissolve more rapidly in hot water than in cold, so the hot water you’re drawing from your water heater might contain some lead, metal from plumbing fixtures, or other impurities.

Lead is a metal found in natural deposits, and is commonly used in household plumbing materials and water service lines. The greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips and dust, however, lead in drinking water can also cause a variety of adverse health effects. Exposure to babies and children through lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, lead can cause increases in blood pressure, and those who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.


Lead is rarely found through our water source, but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder, but, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to 8 percent lead. The most likely area of concern is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amounts of lead into the water, especially hot water.

An act by Congress titled Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act requires all plumbing materials and faucets are to be lead free.  These items should not contain more than 0.2 percent of lead when used in solder and flux, and not more than .25 percent lead in surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fixtures, and fixtures.

How can lead be lowered in drinking water?

The amount of lead can be easily lowered in most cases. To reduce the amount of lead in water:

  • Run the tap until water is cold to the touch before using it for drinking or cooking. This is especially important after the water has been standing in the pipes overnight or over many hours. (The flushed water can be saved for watering house plants, washing dishes or general household cleaning.)
  • Use only cold tap water for cooking, drinking or making a baby’s formula. Hot water is more likely to leach lead from pipes and solder.
  • Check household plumbing for lead based pipes or solder. A plumber can help.
  • Use only lead-free materials in all plumbing repairs or new faucets and pipes. The use of lead solder in plumbing was banned in New York State in 1986. Ask the plumber to show you the label from any solder packaging being used. It should state that the solder is lead-free.

How can water be tested for lead?

Certified commercial laboratories can test for lead in drinking water. The cost ranges from $15 to $50 per sample. Contact the local health department for the names of laboratories approved to test drinking water for lead.

What is replacing lead in the new material?

There are a variety of new material formulations that have been developed that use silicon, bismuth, antimony, tin and nickel.  Most plumbing contractors are aware of this regulation and have made the necessary provisions to change their product lines over to comply with the new regulation. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your home’s drinking water, please contact Carter’s My Plumber at 317-859-9999.  We are available to test your water, and provide recommendations for lead-free plumbing products.  We only install lead-free products, and we are continually educating ourselves about this new regulation and the health benefits.

About Carter’s My Plumber:

Carter’s My Plumber is a local, family-owned, 3rd generation plumbing business located in Greenwood, Indiana, providing plumbing service to the Indianapolis, Greenwood, Whiteland, Franklin, Bargersville, Trafalgar, Mooresville, Wannamaker, Beech Grove and Southport areas.  Carter’s My Plumber has a special menu of services designed to meet the needs of every homeowner to provide a complete solution to their home’s plumbing system.  With over 30 years of plumbing experience, their trained plumbers meet the plumbing need of every residential and light commercial need.

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