The EPA says hot tap water can contain as much lead as a cheap toy from China—”We call it dollar-store tea,” says an EPA spokesman. Okay, seriously, the EPA said none of that but they do warn you to not drink hot tap water. Heated water can leach out contaminants in old pipes, and boiling it doesn’t remove the lead—so only use cold tap water for drinking, cooking, and preparing baby formula. [New York Times]


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  1. AD8BC says:

    Sure — in old houses. Newer homes with the new plastic piping (PVC or flex tube) or less newer homes with all copper and no lead solder should be OK (most homes built in the 90s and later should be alright).

  2. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    I have an old house. This would probably explain why my hot water looks funny when it comes out.

  3. girly says:

    I think I heard about this at least a decade ago.

  4. Also, your hot water heater contains an anode, which will rust before the tank itself rusts.

    @socalrob: I have an old house too. My problem is the local reservoir. When they filled it, everyone in my area who had wells, had the water table screwed up. My water is a lovely shade of orange, with flecks of black, and has a lovely sulfur smell. It tickles all of the senses.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    What about when you take a shower? Are you showering in lead????

  6. @girly: MacGyver did an episode where he found someone had lead poisoning.

    Isn’t tap water covered by the FDA, and don’t you have to have your plumbing inspected for such things to get a CO?

  7. youbastid says:

    @girly: I remember being told by my mom in the 80’s not to “shortcut” cooking with hot water for this very reason.

  8. shadow735 says:

    How old is old? I rent a house that was made in the 80-90’s I think. So is that why I always see pink elephants when I drink hot tap water?

  9. shortergirl06 says:

    Now, can somebody tell my landlord this? Every time I turn on the cold water, hot water comes out. It usually takes 5-10 minutes for it to start coming out cold.

    My landlord, a plumber, says that this is normal, as we have pipe heaters for the cold winter. So, what can I do? Does a Brita filter out the lead? Is this why my drinking glass, that I fill with water before I go to bed, is white with minerals?

  10. unklegwar says:

    This needs to be qualified a bit more. In NYC yes, in suburbia where the mains are PVC and the house plumbing is PVC/Copper, not so much.

    Nothing like leaving out the details to spark a little panic, eh?

  11. medalian1 says:

    You shouldn’t drink tap water anyway if it has fluoride in it, which it probably does if you are reading this. []

  12. jarchie219 says:

    More FUD. If you let the hot water run until it is fully hot you have dumped what ever was sitting in the pipes. The moving water coming out of the tap hasn’t been sitting in the pipe long enough to pick up anything.

  13. HaloZero says:

    @medalian1: Trace amounts of flouride in water are shown to be fine. It’s put in there to help reduce tooth decay and stuff.

    Though…. I do wonder. If the pipes get lead and stuff, then are we showering in lead water?

  14. G0lluM says:

    I didn’t think you were supposed to use tap water at all for baby formula preperation. We bought gallon jugs of water (had a baby on the label – clever marketing) which was supposed to be safe baby-safe for our two children. Probably was tap water anyway.

  15. savvy999 says:

    @medalian1: Interesting link, but wow, that site could use a lesson in usability. The message may be critically important, but it’s utterly lost when the Yuletide color theme hits my eyeballs.

  16. G0lluM says:

    whoops that’s *preparation*

  17. JHoward88 says:

    The taste of hot tap water will likely kill you sooner than the lead in it.

    The fact that most people drink purified water as it is proves the superiority of filtration over tap sources; as for drinking it, city authorities presently clorinate their water for the purpose of making it safe for consumption.

    The threat of lead poisoning from hot tap water is likely so slim that no recorded instances of it exist. At any rate, I wouldn’t classify this as a true hazard; if you enjoy drinking hot water out of your tap, go for it. :)

  18. sir_eccles says:

    @medalian1: It isn’t the fluoride that kills you, it’s the dihydrogen monoxide!! Nasty stuff as I’m sure you know if you’ve read this: []

    And SHORTERGIRL06, the “white” in your water is most likely tiny bubbles of dissolved gases coming out. Nothing to worry about.

  19. AD8BC says:

    I drink bottled water, usually buy spring water by the gallon. I don’t think it is any safer than municipal water, I just like the consistent taste.

  20. OK, if you are very afraid of this, rather than cowering in fear, go to your local hardware store, and get a lead testing kit. Better yet, get two, and take a test every month to improve reliability. This can help if you think you landlord should repair the pipes.

    @shortergirl06: The white deposits are just dissolved calcium in the water. Nothing harmful there. As for the 5-10 minutes to come out cold, I think that’s a lot long. Unless you live on a higher floor, and the water has to go through a series of pumps. And be thankful for the pipe heaters. You will be more sorry if they do freeze and burst.

  21. nequam says:

    After I’ve been working in the hot sun, there’s nothing better than a tall glass of refreshing hot tap water.

  22. @ad8bc: Just as safe, according to FDA standards.

    Bottled water falls under the watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration, which is required to uphold the standards set for tap water by the Environmental Protection Agency

    Got that from Alton Brown on Good Eats, and can be found at the bottom of this transcript here.

  23. IrisMR says:

    Being someone that already broke open a water heater… Yea, I wouldn’T drink what comes out of that either.

  24. Szin says:

    And I, for one, welcome our new Brita overlords.

  25. shortergirl06 says:


    Actually, it’s after it has evaporated. It’s white chalky stuff.

    BTW, the worst part of hot water coming out of the cold is the steaming toilet. If the air is cool enough, the toilet looks like it’s going to explode.

  26. IndyJaws says:

    Sorry…enough’s enough…now telling me that hot tap water is unsafe? I’d go on a rant, but I can’t see the keyboard now that my eyes have rolled to the back of my head.

  27. shadow735 says:

    @shortergirl06: still calcium deposits, I used to use tap water when I refilled my aquatic turtles tank but after 6 months the sides of the tank where that water line was had white deposits that were hard to scrape off with a sharp razor. It is just calcium deposits over time, its not harmful in any way just a pain to clean up.

  28. EBounding says:

    What about water heated by tankless water heaters?

  29. rmz says:

    @shortergirl06: We get that on our dishes that have gone through the dishwasher; it’s a pain to clean off sometimes.

  30. AcidReign says:

        I saw this thing in the paper, this morning, too. Egad. I’ve been living in 1930s era houses with cast iron water pipes, my whole life. No, I’m not in the habit of drinking hot water, but… If the water’s hot already, like from washing dishes or something, I’ll definitely use hot water to fill up an 8 & a half quart pot for stewing stewing stuff.

        Energy efficiency causes lead poisoning. I love it.

        Now that I think about it, from time to time I do mess up and get shampoo in my mouth in the shower. I guess that emergency hot-water mouth rinse is verboten now, too.

        Jet Dry or Cascade rinse stuff will help with calcium deposits on your glasses!

  31. wimpkins says:

    No tea or coffee at work?


  32. @AcidReign: Cast iron is different than lead. People cook in cast iron. Not many people cook in lead pans. They do eat off Wal Mart lead painted plates though…..

  33. Angryrider says:

    Thankfully I live in New York, and have the common sense to use hot water only AS BATHWATER. If I want hot water, I’ll boil water.
    Besides, it’s pretty wack to drink out of the tap.

  34. Myron says:

    @medalian1: Right. Fluoride is a communist plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.

  35. matt says:

    Shouldn’t this be bolded and put on the front page of every newspaper in the land??

  36. @Angryrider: Please, you guys have great water compared to the “clean” country water I have to endure. Try some of my orange, crunchy water, and you’ll worship your tap.

  37. @Myron: See, that’s just being stupid. Everyone knows that it’s the chem-trails that do that.

  38. friendlynerd says:


    I thought it was a mind-control tactic from our own government. We’ll have strong, beautiful teeth while bowing to the government’s every whim. lol

  39. AD8BC says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Actually, I saw that episode!

    My addiction to bottled water comes from the number of nights I spend in hotels. i drink lots of water, but it must taste good for me to do so.

  40. AD8BC says:

    @shortergirl06: Funny story… My friend once plumbed his new home himself. Figured it would be easy. Except for one thing. Each and every faucet was plumbed in reverse.

    Instead of swapping every sink, bathtub, and shower connection, he swapped the main hot and cold trunks in the basement.

    Then, after getting all the drywall up, he installed his toilets and found that all three toilets in his home were now fed with hot water.

    He found this out, of course, the hard way… whilst taking the inaugural poop…

  41. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:

    Yeah, no shit. I don’t get people on city water who drink bottled water or insist on filters.

    I grew up on well water, in an area where you’ve got your choice of any of four types of water: sandy/silty, iron-rich, sulfurous, or arsenic-laden. Oh, and you could get any combination of those.

    One of the elementary schools had so much arsenic in their well water that they had a cistern for the drinking fountains, with water that was trucked in.

    And that’s in wild, pristine, Alaska.

    Anyone in any major city in the industrialized world who complains about the quality of their drinking water should seriously travel more.

  42. overbysara says:

    but wait isn’t pvc bad too? watch blue vinyl.


  43. AD8BC says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Sometimes it’s all about the taste.

  44. snoop-blog says:

    whew! good thing i only drink beer.

  45. RvLeshrac says:


    Pipe heaters aren’t likely to cause the same thing. Keep in mind that “hot water” is scalding hot, for cleaning dishes and such. Pipe heaters should never reach anything close to “hot water” temperatures, they’re just designed to keep you from having to run the water for 10 minutes just to get a little warm water out.

  46. RvLeshrac says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:

    Unscientific sampling has ALWAYS shown that people in any given city will reliably choose tap water over bottled water in blind taste tests. There have been very few scientific studies in a similar vein, but the few that HAVE been done have shown the same results.

    Bottled water is simply filtered tap water, typically. There ARE a few brands that bottle at a spring source (the Callaway family, for instance, bottles water straight from Blue Springs in middle GA, though you likely can’t get it outside of the region).

    The government doesn’t have the resources to devote to bottled water testing. There are a dozen or so dedicated “bottled water” testers for the FTC, the FDA and state governments only test *tap* water, which means that the bottled water you drink can contain nearly ANYTHING. The FTC’s bacterial standards for bottled water are also much lower than the FDA’s standards for tap water.

    Penn & Teller covered this on “Bullshit,” including footage of various water bottling plants, conveniently located in industrial sections of major cities, the ‘source’ of the water being those cities’ water treatment plants (tap water). You’re paying $2 for a bottle of tap water, *AND* you’re paying the city to treat the water via your taxes.

    The best part of that episode, however, was none of the above. It was when they served people water from a dirty garden hose, called it “Pis de Chat,” claimed it was treated with kitten urine, and got rave reviews.


    You are f’ing nuts. None of that has ever been shown to be true in the doses that you get through tap water, and even in much higher doses than are present in tap water. Please return to the “nutjobs” table, and stop trying to inject conspiracy-theory crap into scientific discussions. Or any discussions, for that matter.

  47. forgottenpassword says:

    oh just wonderful! How come I never heard of this before?! And I am just finding this out NOW?!!!

    Last time I get hot water from the tap for my ramen noodles!

  48. rmz says:

    @RvLeshrac: I love that show so much.

  49. OKJeff says:

    Makes me glad that I have an “Insta-Hot” Tap. Cold water travels to a stainless steel tank under the sink, and then it gets heated. Plus its got a pre-filter on it rated to remove lead, to boot.

  50. JiminyChristmas says:

    Pipes, solder, and flux containing lead were banned in the US in 1986, though enforcement wasn’t completely in place until 1988. So, if your dwelling was built after 1988 you should be in the clear…assuming the plumber didn’t have some old material he was trying to use up.

    If you have an old house with galvanized iron piping you likely won’t have any issues because the connections are all fitted, not soldered. If you have copper piping you could take a scraping from a solder joint and test it for lead.