Lead can infiltrate a home through various channels. However, when it affects the water, the health of the community is at risk. From Flint, Michigan, to East Chicago, the presence of lead in water immediately draws attention, and for a good reason: lead is toxic. Making sure your home has lead-free pipes and fixtures is essential to decreasing your exposure to lead.
The use of lead in plumbing dates back to Ancient Rome, where Romans fashioned the world’s first plumbing system out of lead. Lead is desirable 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 many pipes.
Today’s main contributors to trace amounts of lead in the water supply are plumbing infrastructures from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This infrastructure includes pipe and plumbing system components.
Most homes built before 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 pipes with lead solder. However, lead is not limited just to pipes. Lead is also present in faucets and fixtures; brass fixtures are a combination of zinc, copper, and lead. Contact a professional plumbing company to discuss replacement options if you suspect that your home may be old enough to contain lead-based plumbing.
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. 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
Reducing 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 is 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 or Service Pros Plumbers and talk to us about investing in your health and upgrading to lead-free pipes and fixtures.