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High potential for lead in the water of old West Texas houses could cause serious health problems

The Ector County Utility District's recent study found that lead exposure in the water is likely for any house built before 1986.

WEST ODESSA, Texas — If you drink tap water straight from the sink, you could be drinking water contaminated by lead.

When it comes to who may be at risk in West Texas, it really comes down to the age of the house and the subsequent plumbing that might be in it. 

The Ector County Utility District (ECUD) is required by the state of Texas to send out lead test samples to voluntary participants every three years, and the results of a recent study help indicate areas that might be impacted.

In the study done by ECUD, 33 samples were collected with one house on University Drive showing higher lead counts in the water than normal.

Any house built before 1986 has high potential for lead exposure in the water likely due to copper pipe plumbing being connected by lead-based solder, which can be indicated by blue and green coloration around faucets and plumbing.

“When you have the lead inside your water, during the drinking water, it means that there is the potential for all of the area with the same year that the house was built, could have the potential for lead exposure," said ECUD Compliance Director Tram Doan. 

Exposure to lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body, specifically in children and the elderly. 

Pregnant women and their infant can also be negatively impacted due to lead being stored in the bones and released later in life.

“For children it’s going to reduce their intelligent quotient, it’s IQ, because during the development of their brain, with the lead exposed, they could damage their brains and their nervous systems, so children can develop some disability for learning or some mental issue," said Doan. 

Doan says that there are many older houses in West Texas, so it’s important to proceed with caution and participate in the next sample testing period.

“Just be careful," said Doan. "For lead and copper, it’s very dangerous metal. There is no safe level for lead, and it’s not reversible. When lead is in your body, it stays in your body, and it can be harmful for a lifetime.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a few tips on how to be proactive if you are worried about potential lead exposure. 

Those include running the cold-water tap until it gets noticeably colder in order to flush out any lead, using cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula, and do not try to boil the water to remove any lead as hot water actually causes the lead to dissolve more easily. 

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