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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Lead in drinking water

As recent as 2004, some schools in the Seattle School District were found to have lead in the drinking water.

Though no amount of lead is good for us, Public Health does not believe that lead in the water is the primary lead source for children. A greater lead concern comes from sources such as chipping, peeling or otherwise deteriorating paint. Homes much older than about 25 years should be suspected to have lead paint in them. As long as the paint is not deteriorating, there is no exposure. Take care when remodeling older houses. Learn about safe remodeling (EPA).

Other sources of lead:
  • Soil adjacent to busy roadways may have lead deposited in it from cars that historically used leaded gasoline. Care should be taken with children so that they do not play in potentially contaminated dirt. Cover dirt with grass or other plants. Wash food grown in gardens with potentially contaminated soil carefully.

  • Pesticide containing lead may leave residue in the soil. See Washington State University's bulletin for information on gardening in soils contaminated with arsenic and lead.

  • Industrial sources of lead include soil pollution from the Tacoma copper smelter that blew over parts of King County for almost 100 years.

  • Household members who work in industries that use lead (e.g. batteries) can bring lead home on their clothing. Some "folk" remedies involve medicines that have lead. Candy wrappers from other countries have been found to have lead, as has pottery.

While it is unlikely that lead in the water would typically cause high levels of lead in the body, there is more of a concern when combined with other sources described above. If you suspect your child is exposed to lead, please discuss the "blood lead" test with your child's pediatrician.

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