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Portland Water Bureau

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Reducing Exposure to Lead

By Lindsay Wochnick 0 Comments

Portland has removed all known lead service connections from its distribution system. Exposure to lead through drinking water is possible if materials in a building’s plumbing contain lead. The level of lead in water can increase when water stands in contact with lead-based solder and brass faucets containing lead. 

If present, lead at elevated levels can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing.

The Portland Water Bureau is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, you can request a free lead-in-water test from the LeadLine. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the LeadLine, 503-988-4000, or the Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791,

People are exposed to lead in many other ways. In the Portland area, dust from paint in homes built before 1978 is the most common source of exposure to lead. Other sources include soil, pottery, traditional folk medicines and cosmetics, some sports equipment such as fishing weights and ammunition, and some occupations and hobbies.

Portland Water Bureau encourages customers to take necessary steps to avoid possible exposure to lead in drinking water: 

  • Run your water to flush out lead. If the water has not been used for several hours, run each tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until it becomes colder before drinking or cooking. This flushes water which may contain lead from the pipes.
  • Use cold, fresh water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
  • Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  • Consider using a filter. Check whether it reduces lead – not all filters do. Be sure to maintain and replace a filter device in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to protect water quality. Contact NSF International at 800-NSF-8010 or for information on performance standards for water filters.
  • Test your water for lead. Call the LeadLine at 503-988-4000 to find out how to get a FREE lead-in-water test.
  • Test your child for lead. Ask your physician or call the LeadLine to find out how to have your child tested for lead. A blood lead level test is the only way to know whether your child is being exposed to lead.
  • Regularly clean your faucet aerator. Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in your faucet aerator. Regular cleaning every few months will remove these particles and reduce your exposure to lead.
  • Consider buying low-lead fixtures. New brass faucets, fittings and valves, may contribute to lead in your drinking water. Federal law currently allows brass fixtures, such as faucets, to contain up to eight percent lead. These fixtures are labeled as “lead-free.” When buying new fixtures, consumers should seek out those with the lowest lead content. Visit to learn more about lead content in plumbing fixtures. 

For additional information on reducing lead exposure, please visit Portland Water Bureau’s website.

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