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How to filter lead out of water?

How to filter lead out of water?

Water filters are the most effective way to remove lead from drinking water. Activated carbon filters can purify your water by removing most contaminants, including lead. Lead can also be removed through reverse osmosis and distillation.

Quick Facts about lead in water

  • Lead contamination can occur due to corrosion of old lead pipes that supply drinking water to buildings
  • Lead pipes are rare across Australia, though some pipes are fitted using lead-based solders
  • Consuming levels of lead above 0.01 mg/litre can have a negative impact on your health
  • Lead can be removed from water through an activated carbon filter, reverse osmosis or distillation

The national strategy for reducing lead exposure in Australia centres on the implementation of a pilot program, testing ‘first flush’ drinking water, rainwater tanks and drinking fountains. As well as, educating individuals about the dangers of using lead solder in plumbing, whilst reviewing the drinking water guidelines to work towards an overall reduction in lead exposure.

Learn more about chemicals in your water supply


What causes lead in drinking water?

Lead used to be used to make water pipes before scientists discovered the negative impact of lead on health. From the 1930’s onwards, lead pipes have been replaced with copper pipes which are safer. Today, very few buildings in Australia have lead piping installed.

However, problems associated with lead contamination in drinking water do still occur, either where there is corrosion of lead piping or pipes which have been fitted with lead solder. This can be a problem particularly where water has been held within a space over a course of several hours. This means that lead contaminations are at their most dangerous in the morning or after a building has been unused for a period, such as business offices over a weekend.


What are the effects of lead in the water?

Lead can have negative effects of the health of those who drink it, therefore, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines have defined the ‘safe’ level of lead fit for consumption as 0.01 mg per litre (lowered from the previous recommendation of 0.05 mg per litre).

Despite these guidelines there is no national or local government enforced monitoring of lead contamination within public water supplies. This is concerning as the consumption of any level of lead over these guidelines can lead to the slowing of mental and physical development in young children.

Long-term consumption of elevated levels of lead can cause significant damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys and even short term exposure can lead to elevated blood pressure levels.


How to remove lead from your water supply?

Lead can be filtered through one of three approaches:

1.Activated carbon filters:

These filters remove a wide range of contaminants which out the need for electricity or a high degree of water pressure.

2.Reverse osmosis:

Water passes through a very fine filter which larger molecules such as viruses and heavy metals cannot pass though. Strong water pressure is need for this method of lead removal as the water needs to be forced through the filter.

3. Distillation:

This method can be used to remove lead as water is evaporated and the condensed in a new container, leaving behind lead and killing bacteria. However, this method is very energy intensive due to the need to heat the water to boiling.


How to reduce your exposure to lead?

1. Running the tap:

Whilst this isn’t a solution to the problem, running your tap will allow the water which has been contaminated with lead to run out, reducing your risk of harmful exposure. If you have lead piping, you it is recommended you run your  tap for 3-5 minutes. If you do not have a lead service line, running your tap for 30-60 seconds is long enough.

2. Using cold water:

Cold water is safer than hot water as it releases less lead from the pipes. Use cold water for drinking and cooking.


Does boiling water remove lead?

No, boiling does not remove lead and may increase the levels of lead in your water. Use one of the methods above to remove lead from your water supply.


How to test for lead in water?

The problem with a lead contamination is that you can’t see, taste, or smell lead within your water. Indicators you can look out for include whether your building is using an old lead pipe system.

You can request a blood test for lead exposure which will reveal if you have  consumed lead or contact your water provider to carry out checks if you suspect there may be lead in your water supply. The details of water suppliers across Australia can be found at the bottom of this article.


What other heavy metals are in your water?

The top five heavy metals in water supplies are:
1. Lead: as discussed in this article, lead can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes and slowed cognitive development.

3. Manganese: Whilst a small amount of manganese is an essential nutrient for humans and animals, overexposure can lead to health problems such as manganism.

4. Chromium: consumed at high levels, chromium can cause severe health issues such a liver and kidney damage or reproductive harm.  

5. Copper: commonly used in plumbing materials, copper is also an essential nutrient for all living things. Though it too can be harmful if you consume too much, causing liver problems and gastrointestinal issues.


Who to contact if you find lead in tap water

Australia’s drinking water guidelines can be found here.

Western Australia

The Western Australian Health Department can be contacted on 08 9222 2000.

Northern Australia

Northern Australia is a territory with a wide array of public bodies that serve individual regions; visit the Department of Health for the Northern Territory Government website for more information.


For contact details for The Queensland Government Department of Energy and Water Supply, follow this link.

South Australia

South Australia’s water entities are publicly owned and known SA Water; you can contact them via the SA Water contact page.

New South Wales

You may contact the NSW Ministry of Health via their contact page.


Victoria undertakes an annual report of the water quality throughout the state, download the 2020-2021 report here.

Should you have concerns about your water supply in Victoria, you can contact the government’s dedicated department for their water program on 1300 761 874 (during business hours) or by email: