Public Health Consequences of Lead in Drinking Water

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2018 Jun;5(2):255-262. doi: 10.1007/s40572-018-0193-0.


Purpose of review: Lead can enter drinking water from lead service lines and lead-containing plumbing, particularly in the presence of corrosive water. We review the current evidence on the role of drinking water as a source of lead exposure and its potential impacts on health, with an emphasis on children. Drinking water guidelines and mitigation strategies are also presented.

Recent findings: The impact of lead on neurodevelopmental effects in children even at low levels of exposure is well established. Population and toxicokinetic modeling studies have found a clear relationship between water lead levels and blood lead levels in children at low levels of lead in drinking water. Various mitigation strategies can lower lead levels in water. The importance of drinking water as a contributor to total lead exposure depends on water lead levels and the amount consumed, as well as the relative contribution of other sources. Efforts should be made to reduce lead exposure for all sources, including drinking water, considering that no threshold level of exposure exists for the neurodevelopmental effects of lead in children.

Keywords: Action levels; Health impacts; Lead; Mitigation; Regulations; Water.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Lead Poisoning / etiology*
  • Public Health / standards
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Supply / standards


  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lead