Should You Be Worried About Lead Pipes?

Lead has been used to make pipes in pipelines for centuries. It’s cheap, rust-resistant, and easy to weld. Finally, health concerns encouraged the switch to alternative plumbing materials..Copper and special plastics (such as PVC and PEX) are now selected products for water pipes in private households.

In many older houses, however, the original lead pipes are still installed. In the United States and Canada, homes built before the 1950s should be suspected of having lead pipes unless they have already been replaced....Lead soldering, which was used to join copper tubing, was used well into the 1980s.

Lead is a serious health problem

We ingest lead through the air, our food, and the water we drink..The effects of lead on our bodies are very serious. The consequences of lead poisoning range from kidney damage to reproductive problems, including decreased fertility..Lead poisoning is of particular concern in children as it affects their nervous system development and causes permanent changes in behavior and learning...

Over the past few decades we have generally been well informed about the problem of lead in old paint and what to do to prevent children from being exposed. However, the issue of lead in water only recently became a public speaking topic after the Flint lead crisis, which saw an entire community exposed to lead-contaminated municipal water for far too long in a monstrous case of environmental injustice...

It’s also about the water

Old lead pipes are not automatically a health threat. Over time, a layer of oxidized metal forms on the pipe surface, preventing water from coming into direct contact with the raw lead. By controlling the pH of the water in the water treatment plant, municipalities can prevent this oxidized layer from corroding and even add certain chemicals to facilitate the formation of a protective coating (a form of scale). If the water chemistry is not properly adjusted, as was the case with Flint, lead will be leached from the pipes and can reach consumer homes in dangerous amounts...

Do you get your water from a well instead of a municipal water treatment plant? If you have lead in your house pipes, there is no guarantee that the water chemistry is not at risk of dislodging lead and bringing it into your faucet.

What can you do?

  • If you have any concerns about your pipes, run water from your faucet to rinse your pipe before drinking it, especially in the morning. Water that has been sitting in your house pipes for several hours is more likely to absorb lead.
  • Water filters can remove most of the lead from your drinking water..However, the filter must be specifically designed to remove lead. Check whether it has been certified for this purpose by an independent organization (e.g. the NSF).
  • Hot water is also more likely to dissolve lead and carry it to your faucet. Do not use hot water straight from the tap to cook or make hot drinks.
  • Get your water tested for lead..While your community may have switched all utility lines to unleaded material, the pipes in your older home (or the connection to the community system under your lawn) may not have been replaced. To confirm that your water is potable, contact a reputable, certified water testing laboratory and have an analysis performed. It is more expensive, but it is better to choose an independent company that is not trying to sell you a treatment system.
  • Your child’s blood levels can also be easily checked for lead by a pediatrician..Detecting elevated lead blood levels early is important and will give you time to determine where it’s coming from.
  • Children spend a lot of time at school – how is the water there? Request water quality tests from your school district. If they are not done regularly, this is what you need to do.

Hunters let lead out of their balls and anglers are encouraged to choose alternatives. Getting lead out of our homes and drinking water will be more work, but it is important.

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