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Lead and Copper Rule: Protecting Communities from Lead in Drinking Water

"Dropping" by Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/

Children in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by lead in the city's tap water.

Ceyhun (Jay) Isik/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What’s at Stake

Even in small amounts, lead can cause irreversible brain damage in children, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children.

Researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people.


The Lead and Copper rule, or LCR, regulates the control and monitoring of lead in drinking water. Revisions to the rule, finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2021, dramatically slow down the rate at which lead pipes are required to be replaced. The new rule also allows small public water systems required to replace lead service lines to avoid replacing them altogether, even if those systems continually exceed the lead action level.

Most of the lead found in drinking water comes from lead service lines, according to the EPA. Lead service lines naturally corrode when water flows through them.

EPA estimates there are as many as 10 million lead service lines in the country, and researchers estimate lead pipes serve as many as 22 million people. Communities of color are disproportionately affected. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11.2% of African-American children and 4% of Mexican-American children are poisoned by lead.

Case Updates

June 23, 2021 | Fact Sheet

Lead and Copper Rule Fact Sheet 2021

The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is a complex set of regulations established in 1991 under the Safe Drinking Water Act. While intended to protect the public from lead in drinking water, the LCR focuses only on detecting and preventing severe contamination across a community. It is not a health-based regulation and does not address high lead levels in individual homes. The LCR is outdated and flawed.