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The concentration of lead content in drinking waterFeatured science projectScience project video

Materials

The materials required for the experiment:

  • 10 small bottles to collect water samples.
  • Select 5 new houses (less than 10 years old). Each house must be in a different residential area.
  • Select 5 old houses (more than 50 years old). Each house must be in a different residential area.
  • Select a laboratory to test for lead in the samples. 

Procedure

  1. For this experiment, the independent variable is the age of the houses. The dependent variable is the lead content in the water. This is determined by sending the sample for testing in the lab. The constants (control variables) are the amount of water taken as samples, and the laboratory used for testing.
  2. Visit the new houses (less than 10 years) and collect the water samples. Houses in different residential areas are selected because they will have a different piping path leading from the water source to the house. Before taking any samples, ask the owner of the house if the plumbing is made of PVC. If he/she is unable to tell you, survey the plumbing in the house to determine if lead, copper or PVC pipes are used. If required, enlist the help of a plumber. If the plumbing is not PVC, find another old house to obtain a sample. Let the tap water run for 30 seconds before taking the water sample. The bottle is immediately labeled and stored safely.
  3. Repeat step 2 at 4 more houses.
  4. Visit the older houses (more than 50 years old) next. Houses in different residential areas are selected for the same reason above. Before taking any samples, ask the owner of the house if the plumbing has been changed recently. If he/she is unable to tell you, survey the plumbing in the house to determine if lead or PVC pipes are used. If required, enlist the help of a plumber. If the plumbing is not lead, find another old house to obtain a sample.
  5. If the plumbing is made of lead, let the water run for 30 seconds before taking a sample of water. Label the bottle and put it aside.
  6. Repeat steps 4 to 5 at 4 more houses.
  7. When all 10 samples are collected, send the 10 bottles to an independent laboratory to test for the level of lead content.
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Complexity level:
5
Project cost ($):
10
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 10 days for collection of samples and preparation
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Do not ingest the water samples.