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According to water quality experts, there are several steps consumers can take to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important for pregnant women, formula-fed infants and children under the age of 6.

Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve lead more easily than cold water. Boiling water can concentrate lead. Consider purchasing bottled water from a known lead-free source for drinking and cooking.

Avoid drinking or cooking with water that has been sitting in pipes overnight. Some experts caution to never run a faucet at full speed to avoid flaking off lead. One recommends drawing a large jug of water at night before bed to use for drinking and cooking in the morning.

Inspect your faucet aerator. The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that can catch debris, including particles of lead. It is recommended to periodically remove the aerator and rinse out any debris.

To check if your home has lead pipes, locate the pipe that leads into your home and connects to the water meter, often coming up through the basement floor. Use a flathead screwdriver to scratch the pipe and remove any accumulated dirt or deposits. If the pipe is shiny metal under the scratched area, it is lead. If it is copper-colored, it is copper. And if it remains dull, it is galvanized steel. Also, a magnet will stick to steel, but it will not stick to lead. Madison Water Utility

Test your tap water for lead. The homes at highest risk of lead in the water are those built before 1950, but even newer homes may have lead service lines or indoor plumbing components made of lead. The state Department of Natural Resources maintains a list of laboratories, some of which do lead testing.

Purchase a home filtration system. Home drinking water filtration systems or water filtering pitchers can reduce or eliminate lead. Be sure to look for products certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53 for removal of lead. Recommended filters can be found on the Milwaukee Water Works website.

Consider having children under age 6 and pregnant women tested for lead in their blood. There is no safe level of lead. Most lead-poisoned people do not look or act sick. The Milwaukee Health Department recommends testing vulnerable children at age 12 months, 18 months and 24 months, however, recent research based in Flint suggests infants on formula also should be tested.

Additional information about reducing lead exposure in drinking water is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the city of Milwaukee.

— Dee J. Hall

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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Dee J. Hall / Wisconsin WatchManaging Editor

Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, joined the staff as managing editor in June 2015. She is responsible for the Center’s daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations.

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school, Hall served reporting internships at the weekly Lake County Star in Crown Point, Ind., The Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune, The Louisville (Ky.) Times and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Prior to returning to her hometown of Madison in 1990, she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, where she covered city government, schools and the environment. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders.