WACO, Texas — The Waco Utilities has spent the last few months testing water meters for lead. They plan to check every home and business to limit the amount their residents are exposed to.
"The environmental protection agency came out with new rules and the goal ultimately is for there to not be any lead pipes in the entire United States plumbing," Jessica Emmett Sellers with the city of Waco told 25 News.
The U.S. Congress banned the use of lead pipes in 1986. Despite these materials not being installed in almost four decades, they can still be found in some older structures.
"Stuff that was built prior to that, which is a lot of homes and businesses in Waco, they're looking at that potential," Sellers said.
"There's not really a way to like drive a circle around and say that's a high-risk area."
There's more than 50,000 homes and businesses the city is now checking for traces of lead.
"This inventory doesn't go inside people's homes," Sellers said.
"The way that it's set up is we look at part of the service line that's connected to the water meter. If we do notice something that's either lead or another material that needs replacing, we let the people know. If the pipe that needs replacing is on the city side, then we replace it."
Homeowners have 45 days to decide if they want to replace their pipes. While it is up to them, it's highly recommended they do.
"There is no safe lead level," Vaidehi Shah with the Waco McLennan County Health District said.
"If you know your pipes are contaminated with lead and you have the option, you should definitely get them replaced."
Lead exposure can be dangerous for anyone, but especially children. Those younger than six-years-old could experience slowed growth and development. It can also cause kidney and nervous system damage, depression, memory loss and high blood pressure in people of all ages.
Women who are pregnant are also at risk for complications and even a miscarriage.
"Women who are breastfeeding are also at high risk because they may transfer lead from the breast milk to the developing child," Shah said.
"Also, if you make formula with water that comes through lead pipes, that might affect the baby."
Exposure can be caused by lead pipes, paint or dust. People can also come into contact with it through certain make up, toys and other household items.
"Any amount of lead exposure is something we want to worry about," Sellers said.
In the city's last report, they had checked about a quarter of the 50,000 locations. Only six showed lead pipes on the city side and one on a homeowner.