Testing water for lead in Portland

I recently posted about an 11-year-old girl from Colorado who just invented a quick and easy way to test for lead in drinking water at home.  One reason this may be an important advance is that existing lead-testing methods are either inaccurate or extremely time-consuming.  Just to elaborate on this point, here are the on-line instructions for lead-testing that are provided by one city – the city of Portland – to its residents.  These instructions come with a lead sampling kit.  Not to pick on Portland, which is only one example of a municipality with a potential problem of lead contamination in its drinking water (see my last post).

With some paraphrasing:

(1)Plan a time when you let water sit in your plumbing system for 6-18 hours before collecting your sample.

(2)Stop using the water for 6-18 hours.

(3)On an information card, record time and date you stopped using your water.

(4)Collect your sample by running water into a large sports bottle until it is full, shake well, pour water from the large sports bottle into a small sports bottle, screw lid on tightly.

(5)Place small sports bottle inside a 4″ x 6″ clear bubble-lined resealable bag; seal.

(6)Complete information card, filling out time and date of collection.

(7)Place sealed bubble-lined bag and information card inside 6″ X 9″ , postage-paid envelope; seal.

(8)Return sample to the Portland Water Bureau within 7 days of collecting sample.

(9)”You should receive the analysis results within 6 weeks.”  Call the Portland Water Bureau if you have not received your results after 6 weeks.

SO:  under the prescribed official procedures, you could be using lead-contaminated water for up to 6 weeks (or more?) while waiting for your test results.

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Mark Kanazawa

I am Wadsworth A. Williams Professor of Economics at Carleton College, Northfield, MN

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