Analytical Chemistry

A Little Math

What is the smallest quantity of lead that can be detected in drinking water?

Lead is something we definitely don’t want in our drinking water. The maximum contaminant level goal set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (as of 2011) is zero, indicating that there is no amount of “safe” exposure to lead in drinking water. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level, which is based on more practical considerations, is 15 parts per billion. So how little can we detect? Thankfully, way less than that. Even in the 1990s it was possible to detect lead concentrations as low as 0.1 parts per billion. So analytical chemists are on top of keeping us safe from lead in our drinking water (as long as someone is checking on it regularly).


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