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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Important Information About Lead in Household Plumbing and Your Drinking Water (English)

Important Information About Lead in Household Plumbing and Your Drinking Water

Easy Steps to Reduce Exposure to Lead

The content of the lead brochure is below. You may also read this information in the PDF of the brochure.

What you need to know

Portland’s drinking water sources meet or exceed all state or federal standards. We are fortunate that lead is rarely found in our source waters. Some homes or buildings have lead in their plumbing and can have lead in their water.

Important information about lead in your drinking water

The Portland Water Bureau found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes/buildings. Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Please read this information closely to see what you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water.

Health effects of lead

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.

Sources of lead

Lead is commonly found in a variety of places throughout our environment. While lead is rarely found in our source waters and there are no known lead service lines in the water system, lead can be found in some homes.

In Portland, lead enters drinking water from the corrosion (wearing away) of household plumbing materials that contain lead. These materials include lead-based solder used to join copper pipe - commonly used in homes built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985 - and brass components and faucets. Lead in household plumbing can dissolve into drinking water when water sits in those pipes for several hours, such as overnight or while people are away at work or school.

In Portland, the most common sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint, household dust, soil, and plumbing materials. Lead can also be found in other household objects such as toys, cosmetics and pottery.

Easy steps for reducing lead exposure from drinking water:

  1. Run your water to flush the lead out. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling water will not reduce lead.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 if your child is being exposed to lead.
  6. Test your water for lead. Contact the LeadLine to find out how to get a FREE lead-in-water test.
  7. Regularly clean your faucet aerator. Particles containing lead from solder or household plumbing can become trapped in your faucet aerator. Every few months, clean your aerator to remove these particles and reduce your exposure to lead.
  8. Consider buying low-lead fixtures.  As of 2014, all pipes, fittings, and fixtures are required to contain less than 0.25% lead. When buying new fixtures, consumers should seek out those with the lowest lead content.

Protecting public health

The Portland Water Bureau:

  • Reduces corrosion of lead in plumbing by increasing the pH of the water. This pH adjustment has reduced lead in tap water by more than half. To further reduce the levels of lead in tap water, Portland is installing improving corrosion control treatment by 2022. This improved corrosion control treatment will increase both the pH and alkalinity of the water.
  • Removes known sources of lead from the system. All known lead service connections (pigtails) were removed from the system by 1998.
  • Replaces large, lead-containing meters that serve water to at-risk populations. For more than ten years, all replacement meters have been lead-free.

Resources to reduce your exposure

In addition to reducing lead exposure in drinking water, the Portland Water Bureau, through the LeadLine, supports programs to reduce all sources of exposure to lead:

  • Lead poisoning prevention workshops
  • Programs to reduce lead hazards in eligible homes
  • FREE childhood blood lead level testing
  • FREE lead-in-water test kits to its customers

Contact the LeadLine: or 503-988-4000.

For more information, call us at 503-823-7525, or visit our website at For more information on reducing lead exposure around your home/building and the health effects of lead, visit EPA’s website at or contact your health care provider. 

Please contact us for translation or interpretation, or for accommodations for people with disabilities.

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Water Quality Line: 503-823-7525

Customer Service: 503-823-7770

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Published: 02/2020