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Water filters appear to screen out lead, even at high levels

Feb 4, 2016

New tests suggest filters work even in Flint homes with high levels of lead in the drinking water.

Federal officials brief the news media on new test results that suggest water filters can screen out lead, even in amounts previously thought too high.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

EPA officials say 50 homes have tested at 150 parts per billion of lead, well above the federal action level, and at the filters’ posted limit.

But the EPA’s Mark Durno says tests at 10 of those homes show filters can still remove the lead.

“Even at those higher levels, even the ones that came back still over 150, when you pass them through the filter they are non-detect,” says Durno.

One of the homes retested using filters did show a slight, 2 parts per billion reading for lead in the tap water. No level of lead is considered safe. But the federal action level is 15 parts per billion. 

It’s unclear how high lead levels might affect the life of the water filters that have been handed out in recent months. The filters are supposed to be good for three months. 

Tests show only a small percentage of Flint homes are testing at very high levels of lead contamination (150 ppb) in the drinking water. 

Dr. Nicole Lurie is leading the federal response to the Flint water crisis. She says this is good news, but still urges Flint residents take precautions.

“If you haven’t had the water in your home tested, please do that right away,” says Lurie.

Federal officials urge pregnant women and young children to continue using bottled water until lead levels in tap water are deemed safe.