Lead in drinking water - what dangers threaten and which limits are there?

Lead in drinking water is one of the most well-known health hazards. Where it is particularly high, what limits there are for lead in drinking water, and what health damage can threaten by lead poisoning, is explained in detail here.

Lead pipes in the household

In older buildings, built before 1973, lead pipes may still be present. These tubes are easily recognized by their curved shape, while tubes made of other materials are always soldered at right angles.

After 1973, no lead pipes were generally installed, as they were considered harmful to health. If water stays in lead pipes for a long time, it can accumulate with lead. It can come to a chronic lead poisoning.

Also for the Roman Empire, one suspects a high number of health problems caused by chronic lead poisoning, which could have had a strong negative impact on the entire state as well as the life expectancy of the Romans.

Health hazards due to lead

  • Fruit damaging effect
  • Disorders of the nervous system
  • Disorders of blood formation
  • Disorders of the kidneys
  • Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Disorders of child development (brain damage)
  • Impaired reproductive ability of adults

Lead is usually stored in the bones. It remains there until it is mobilized by a corresponding metabolic state and can then enter the bloodstream.

Children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. They absorb significantly more lead than adults, and in children, lead can more easily enter the brain directly. It leads to developmental damage and delayed brain development.

In pregnant women, a high lead content in the blood can also have a fructifying effect. This means that the unborn child's brain and nervous system can already be seriously damaged in the womb due to the high lead content in maternal blood.

Lead can also occur in certain foods, which is why the maximum levels permitted by law are also set by law, such as milk.


On December 1, 2013, the permissible lead limit in drinking water was lowered by the Ministry of Health to 10 μg / l. Previously, it was 25 μg / l. The recommendation takes better account of the perceived health risks of chronic lead poisoning.

An exchange of lead lines in the household is thus absolutely necessary, otherwise the required limit can no longer be met. For the replacement of the pipes - as for the entire house installation - but the homeowner is responsible. The responsibility of the water supplier is only up to the house connection.

Other ways to remove

Heavy metals, especially lead, can also be removed from the water in other ways.

Decoction or activated carbon filters are useless against lead.

In specially designed ion exchangers, lead may also be filtered out and exchanged for sodium and chloride. But this is expensive, especially is a use at the tap practically impossible.

Reverse osmosis also removes heavy metals from the water, such plants are also available in under counter design. However, they consume a lot of energy and water.

An exchange of the lines is therefore in any case the recommended alternative.

Tips & Tricks

If you let the water from lead pipes run so long until it is evenly cool from the line, the high lead content of standing in the pipes water is usually already significantly reduced.

Video Board: Lead in Drinking Water