Jenny Kelly pours water from her kitchen faucet in her Chicago home. Kelly had her water tested for lead by the Tribune, and while it was not over the legal action level, it was close, which worries her. (José M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

Jenny Kelly pours water from her kitchen faucet in her Chicago home. Kelly had her water tested for lead by the Tribune, and while it was not over the legal action level, it was close, which worries her. (José M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune) (September 16, 2011)

In the Chicago Tribune this week, you’ll find another story about lead in water. It’s an update on a previous story that explained how regulators are worried that current testing methods inaccurately screen for lead -- a toxic metal that is extremely bad for developing brains and also bad for the cardiovascular health of adults.

(Here's the previous installment.)

The new developments came about after I discovered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had new testing results examining lead in a small sample of Chicago homes.

I was able to get a copy of the results by requesting the document under the Freedom of Information Act. I knew there was a story there as soon as I saw the spreadsheet documenting lead levels found in water.

Nationwide, utilities screen for lead by taking the first liter of water from a homeowner’s faucet. The testing results showed relatively low lead levels in that first liter of water for each home.  But after the first liter, lead levels kept rising.

The results gave credence to the concern that current testing methods don’t accurately gauge how much lead is in our drinking water.

I also wrote a sidebar to go along with the story after talking with one of my friends about what I was working on. He asked if those popular filtering pitchers, like Brita and PUR, remove lead.

I didn’t know, but I told him I’d find out. One of our editors here was sure that they did, because she remembers buying a pitcher and filters specifically because it could reduce lead.

As it turns out, the pitchers are not certified to reduce lead. You can read about why they don’t and some possible alternatives by checking out the story.

-- Ellen Gabler

 Join Trib Nation on Facebook for more of the how and why of Tribune journalism.