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FORT WORTH (CBS11) – City water departments spent years taking lead out of their pipes and we’d like to think that is all taken care of when we open the tap for a cup of water. But the reality is whether you’re at a park or at home, what is between the tap and the water meter  is completely out of the water department’s control.

“We’ve never really looked at what’s on the private side of the system,” said John Robert Carman.  “We focus on what we are responsible for.”

Your water department is not responsible for the lines from the meter to a public drinking fountain, the actual drinking fountain or for the lines from the meter to the taps on your house.

Now water departments like Fort Worth’s are trying to let homeowners know what they need to do to protect themselves from lead contamination.

“Really, the challenge is stuff that was installed in the system on the private or the public side but prior to 1988,” Carman said.

Mid-80’s and earlier pipes were allowed to use lead to seal brass fittings. Some pipes older than the mid-70’s are actually made out of lead.

“As far as the pipes go, anything that has lead in it could cause lead to filter into the water,” said Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician for Cook Children’s Hospital.

Smith said while pipes are a concern, a far bigger lead threat to children’s health actually comes from lead-based paint and the dust from it.

Most homes in north Texas were built within the last 25 years, meaning the plumbing lines should be lead free.

Owners of older homes can ask for a state plumbing inspector to examine their pipes for lead joints.

A routine blood test done during your child’s physical exam can detect health problems and fix them without long term side effects.

“Most kids have a very slight elevations of their levels,” Dr.  Smith said. “And then we actually send someone to the house we actually ask parents questions about where the possible source could be coming from. We take away the source and then we check back in three months and the levels have gone back to normal.”

A tip regarding any faucet that hasn’t been used in a few hours: run the water for about 30 seconds to flush out the stagnant water.

If you want even more reassurance, most cities will give you one of these to collect a sample and they’ll test the water for you.

For more on lead in drinking water and the health effects, click here.

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