Lead can infiltrate a home through various channels, but when it affects the water, the health of the community is at risk. The presence of lead in water immediately draws attention, and for good reason: lead is toxic. Making sure your home has lead free pipes and fixtures is essential to decreasing your exposure to lead.
Why is lead used in pipes and plumbing fixtures?
The use of lead in plumbing dates back to Ancient Rome, where Romans fashioned the world’s first plumbing system out of of lead. Lead is a desirable element for constructing pipes because it is malleable enough to mold into the desired shape but strong enough to prevent “pinhole” water leaks. Lead is also present in the solder that connects copper pipes.
Infrastructures from the 60s, 70s and the 80s, including pipe and plumbing system components, are the main contributors of trace amounts of lead in the water supply today.
Most homes built prior to the 1980 still have lead solder connecting copper pipes. Unless they have upgraded the home piping to a lead free infrastructure, there is a good chance that the fixtures and pipes contain trace amounts of lead.
Why lead-free pipes are a must
Lead can leech into the water
Homes built before 1980 are likely to contain copper pipes with lead solder, but lead is not limited just to pipes. Lead is also present in faucets and fixtures; brass fixtures are really a combination of zinc, copper, and lead. If you suspect that your home may be old enough to still contain lead based plumbing, contact a professional plumbing company to discuss replacing your pipes and fixtures immediately.
Lead is very toxic to the human body
Lead is dangerous because the body does not remove lead through urination as it does other substances, for instance, vitamin C. Rather, lead accumulates within the body and increases with continued exposure. Lead poisoning can result in:
- Neurological effects: including forgetfulness, irritability, fatigue and lethargy, depression, headaches, weakness, and lowered IQ scores
- Renal damage
- Decrease in red blood cell count
- Abdominal pain
- Increase in abnormal sperm
- Decrease in sperm count
- Increase in miscarriage risk for pregnant mothers repeatedly exposed
- Increase in learning disabilities
Three steps to reduce lead in your home
Identify any affected pipe or fixture: If necessary, upgrade any affected pipes or plumbing features. In 2011, the EPA created the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act, which reduced the legal amount of lead in plumbing before it can be called “lead-free.” When selecting new materials, choose features that are clearly certified as lead free.
Flush water: While you wait to have any affected fixtures upgraded, run the tap water for at least 30 seconds before drinking or cooking with it. Water that sits for a while is more likely to contain higher levels of lead.
Use a filter: Unlike bacteria, lead cannot be removed from water by boiling. If you opt for a filter, you must use one that specifically made to remove lead.
Protect your family
Because lead is not detectable simply by tasting the water, having your water tested is the easiest way to know if your internal plumbing is leeching lead into your drinking water. If you are at risk, contact your local plumbing company and talk to us about investing in your health and upgrading to lead free pipes and fixtures.