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Lead In Drinking Water


The Medford Water Department wants all consumers to be aware of the potential for elevated lead levels in drinking water, the causes, the health effects, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate the effects or the source.

Twice a year, the Medford Water Department works with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to test water for lead levels at 15 sites that are likely to have lead components. For the test Fall of 2021, three (3) of the sites did result in lead levels above the Action Level of 15ppb. Lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Please read the following 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 your 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. Additionally, lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child can receive lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development.

Sources of Lead

Lead is a common metal found in the environment. Sources of exposure are lead-based paint, household dust, soil, and some plumbing materials, including certain types of faucets. It is important to understand that the water source (MWRA reservoirs) and the water mains that distribute your water are lead-free. However, lead can get into tap water through a lead service line (the pipe that connects your home to the main in the street), lead solder typically used in plumbing prior to 1986, and some brass fixtures. The corrosion or wearing away of these lead- based materials can add lead to your tap water, particularly if water sits for a long time in the pipes before use.


How to Reduce Lead Exposure

  • If your water has gone unused for more than 6 hours, run any faucet used for drinking or cooking until it is consistently cold (usually about 30 seconds to 2 minutes) before drinking or cooking with it. The flushing of your tap ensures the best quality
  • Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula/food for
  • Please note that boiling water does not eliminate lead. If there is lead in your water, boiling it will increase lead
  • Other steps that may be taken include installing water filters that meet the standard for effective lead reduction, identify if your plumbing fixtures or water piping contain lead and replacing them, and having your water
  • The Water Department will provide free testing of water for any homeowner or tenant as well as an inspection of water service to determine material. For further information call 781-393-2561
  • It is also suggested that parents have their child’s blood tested for lead through their health care

Again, elevated levels of lead in drinking water will occur if your property has lead water pipes or components that contain lead, typically installed prior to 1986. Through the City of Medford’s ongoing Lead and Copper Program, the City will work with property owners to determine if a lead water line is present on their property and reimburse property owners $1000 toward residential service line replacement.  Also, if you are purchasing a home it is suggested that you have the water tested for lead prior to purchase.  For more information on the City’s Lead and Copper Program, call the Water Quality Division at 781-393-2561.  You can also visit our website here.

For further information on reducing lead exposure in your home/building and on the health effects of lead, visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website at http://www/ or contact your healthcare provider.