Pitt County Issues Lead Advisory

Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Morrow said today that pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under age six should get their water tested for lead and should not consume their tap water until it is tested. His announcement followed the investigation of two Greenville children, on Greenville Utilities' water system, with elevated blood lead levels.

For information on lead screening for children, contact the Pitt County Health Department at (252) 902-2300. For information on free lead testing of water, contact GUC at 551-1551.

Click here for a link to the Centers for Disease Control's comprehensive look at lead and the danger.

Here is the advisory from Pitt County Health Officials:


GREENVILLE – Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Morrow said today that pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under age six should get their water tested for lead and should not consume their tap water until it is tested. His announcement followed the investigation of two Greenville children, on Greenville Utilities’ (GUC’s) water system, with elevated blood lead levels.

“Through routine lead testing, we found two children whose only apparent exposure to lead was attributed to the plumbing system leaching lead into the tap water. An extensive investigation has found lead solder in the faucet strainer/aerator in the home.
To put this issue into perspective, we find elevated levels of lead in children each year. Last year we identified 17 children with elevated lead levels that came from other, more common sources such as deteriorated lead-based paint.

“We want to do the prudent thing,” he continued. “Elevated blood lead levels have been linked to developmental delays in children under age six and fetuses. Specifically, this population should not use their tap water for drinking, cooking, preparing baby formula or brushing teeth until their water has been tested and determined to be safe. Bottled water should be used until the test results from their tap water are deemed safe.

Dr. Morrow praised Greenville Utilities, which has offered free lead testing to its customers since November 2004 and will continue to offer that service.

GUC General Manager Ronald D. Elks noted that the utility is committed to doing everything within its power to reduce lead levels in customers’ water. “While there is no lead in the water GUC provides to customers, there still may be lead in the water coming from your tap,” he said. “There are no detectable levels of lead in the water when it leaves our treatment plant and none of GUC’s water distribution lines contain lead. Typically, lead gets into your water through household plumbing. The most common cause is corrosion, a reaction between the water and lead pipes or solder.

“Testing water at the customer’s tap can determine if there are sources of lead in the household plumbing,” he said. “The water GUC delivers to your home is not the source of the lead. The source of the lead is the plumbing system or fixtures in the home.”

Since the 1970s, GUC has added a corrosion inhibitor to treated water in order to provide a protective coating inside customer-owned pipes. Until recently, GUC’s corrosion control program has been successful in minimizing the amount of lead present; however in 2002, GUC upgraded its treatment process to comply with federal rules to reduce disinfection byproducts. “While this required change has reduced those byproducts, it also may have altered our water chemistry and impacted the effectiveness of our corrosion control program” Elks said.
In August 2004, GUC switched to a different corrosion inhibitor. “All studies indicate that our corrosion control program is now optimized, but it could take up to 18 months to see results. However, even with the most effective corrosion control program, detectable levels of lead may still be present in your tap water due to leaching from household plumbing,” he said.
GUC is monitoring the situation closely and has been conducting a public education campaign advising customers on ways to reduce exposure to lead. “We offer free lead testing and have taken more than 300 samples of water from households across Greenville since November,” he said. “About a quarter of them have shown elevated lead levels coming from the tap.”

While the recommendation to avoid the use of tap water for drinking, cooking, preparing formula, and brushing teeth is directed specifically to pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under age six, everyone is encouraged to reduce their exposure to lead. Both Dr. Morrow and Elks noted that lead levels in water can usually be reduced by following these simple measures:
· USE ONLY WATER FROM THE COLD WATER TAP FOR COOKING AND DRINKING: Hot water can dissolve more lead more quickly than cold water. Boiling your water will not reduce the amount of lead in your water.

After water has been sitting in the pipes for more than six (6) hours (usually in the morning), run your cold water for two to four minutes before using it to drink or prepare food. During the day, run the water for a minute before consuming the water.


Dr. Morrow stressed the importance of getting young children under the age of six and pregnant women or breastfeeding women tested for lead. “This is a simple fingerstick blood test,” he said. “Ideally, all young children and pregnant women should be screened for lead. You can contact your pediatrician, obstetrician, or the Pitt County Health Department for information.
(end advisory)


Lead is toxic to humans, and people should avoid all exposures to it. Fortunately, lead poisoning is preventable.

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults.

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body.

Lead is a relatively soft, naturally occurring metal. It can be found in all parts of our environment.

Lead has many different uses. It is used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and devices to shield X-rays.

Lead itself does not break down, but lead compounds are changed by sunlight, air, and water.

Much of the lead in inner-city soils comes from old houses painted with lead-based paint.

Exposure to lead is more dangerous for young and unborn children.
Unborn children can be exposed to lead through their mothers.

A blood test is available to measure the amount of lead in your blood and to estimate the amount of your exposure to lead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 1 and 2 be screened for lead poisoning.

The EPA requires lead in air not to exceed 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (1.5 µg/m³) averaged over 3 months. EPA limits lead in drinking water to 15 µg per liter.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) develops regulations for workers exposed to lead.

Source: ATSDR’s ToxFaqs for Lead