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Lead Found in Water from Coolers

December 10, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Refrigerated water coolers could be a source of lead in drinking water, according to findings disclosed by an official of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Centers for Disease Control checked water coolers at two Navy facilities and found lead levels well above EPA recommended limits, said Lawrence Jensen, EPA’s assistant administrator for water.

Jensen said in an interview Wednesday that he was not at liberty to disclose where the water coolers were located, but he said the Navy has replaced them.

The lead appears to come from either lead-lined water tanks or lead solder used on the cooling coils, Jensen said, because ″there wasn’t a lot of lead in the water going in.″

EPA regulations prohibit use of lead in new plumbing, and those might apply to water coolers too, Jensen said.

No one has any idea how many water coolers have lead in them and how many don’t.

Lead can cause neurological disorders, particularly in children, as well as kidney damage and high blood pressure.

EPA standards call for no more than 50 parts per billion of lead in drinking water, and the agency is lowering that figure to 20 ppb.

Forty samples taken from the coolers as soon as the water began flowing ranged from 5 ppb to 570 ppb, and averaged 125 ppb, Jensen said. Letting the water run for a minute or two produced a range of 5 ppb to 870 ppb in 119 samples, with an average of 64 ppb.

Water can leach lead from pipe and solder joints more readily as the temperature rises and acidity increases. EPA advises homeowners with high lead concentrations in their water to let the water run for a minute or two before drinking it, and to use only cold water for cooking.

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