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Study: Some home water filters may make lead problem worse

Some filters may actually increase water's lead content  

Brass faucets in filtration systems eyed as culprit

June 18, 1998
Web posted at: 11:27 p.m. EDT (0327 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- A California environmental group says some home water filtration systems, designed to make drinking water more pure, may actually be increasing the amount of lead in the water.

The Center for Environmental Health had 16 different brands of water filtration systems tested by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Six brands produced water that exceeded California's limit for lead, with two -- made by Franke Inc. of Pennsylvania and Omni Corporation of Indiana -- generating water with readings substantially higher than the limit.

The California standard was used because there is no federal standard for lead in water.

Researchers point to brass faucets in the filtration systems as the lead-generating culprit. Brass is a combination of copper and lead.

"The water is left standing in the faucets themselves, and if these faucets contain lead, over the hours that this sits, what will happen is that this (lead) will gradually build up (in the water)," said Richard Maas, director of research at UNC-Asheville's Environmental Quality Institute.

The situation may be made worse by the fact that the filtration process makes the water more corrosive, allowing it to leach even more lead out of the brass faucets than it would if there was no filter hooked up at all, Maas said.

Although their products are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, both Franke and Omni said they would investigate the results of the center's study. Franke is pulling the system in question from the market until tests can be conducted.

In the meantime, the Center for Environmental Health suggests two ways people with home water systems can combat the problem -- replace brass faucets with ones made of stainless steel, or let water run for at least 10 seconds before using it to discharge any fluid that has been stagnant inside the faucet.

San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre contributed to this report.
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