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pipe repair

How Do I Know If The Lead Pipes In My Older Home Are A Problem?

Could lead pipes be causing health problems for your family? Or are they just an annoyance? Here’s what you need to know.

Does your home have lead pipes? This is a hot topic in home and health safety, and rightfully so: Lead poisoning has been linked to health hazards. How does lead get into your drinking water? It’s most commonly leached from pipes as a result of water with either a) high acidity or b) low mineral content. This is known as corrosion, and occurs when the mineral content in water gradually degrades the metal in your pipes. If you are drinking water from corroded pipes, you could be at risk for health problems. Here’s what you need to know about the plumbing system in your home, and how to keep it free from lead.

How Do I Know If My Home Has Lead Pipes?

If you are a homeowner, look back on the documents regarding your home inspection. If lead pipes were present, this should have been reported. If not, this is a great time to get a home inspection! You can also call a local HVAC and plumbing company and schedule an inspection and consultation.

Older homes are more likely to have lead pipes, although this does not mean that ALL old homes have lead pipes. If you live in a house built before the mid 1980s, there is a possibility that the plumbing system contains lead. It is possible that the plumbing system in an old house has been updated; consult your paperwork and records for home repairs and upgrades done by the previous owners.

If you’re noticing rust in your water at home, there is a chance your home may have lead pipes. (It’s also possible that the rust is coming from lead pipes in your municipal water system — which could be a health hazard, and should be reported immediately).

Why Are Lead Pipes Dangerous?

Lead pipes are dangerous because over time, water corrodes the pipes. This happens for a variety of reasons; namely high mineral content in the water, hot water temperature, and the acidity/alkalinity of the water.

Lead is toxic and considered to be bioaccumulative, which means it builds up and stays in our body over time. It’s particularly problematic in small children and pregnant women, who require less exposure to experience detrimental effects. While the effects of lead on children are still being studied, it can show up in a variety of ways, from the irritating (headaches) to the extremely problematic (learning disabilities, damage to the nervous system, and impaired red blood cell production). In pregnant women, lead exposure can result in premature birth or an underdeveloped fetus. Adults may experience reproductive issues, and harm to the cardiovascular and kidney systems.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) maintains that while drinking lead-tainted water is harmful, it is not harmful to bathe in it. Lead cannot be absorbed through skin contact.

Do I Need To Replace My Lead Pipes?

All lead pipes should be replaced. They will eventually corrode and become unsafe, even if they have not yet reached that point. It’s best to replace lead pipes before they become corroded, but if they have already reached that point it is imperative you replace them as soon as possible.

If you are unsure if you have lead in your water, you should have it tested immediately. Lead cannot be detected by sight, smell, or taste, so you must employ professional water testing to receive the results. It’s important to note that there are two main sources of water for households or apartments: From a community source (such as a municipal water supply), or from a private source (such as a well). Municipal-sourced water is tested regularly, and the results are made public; contact your local government for the report. If you source your own water from a well on your property, it is up to you to test it for mineral levels and safety. Plan on testing your water annually; this can cost as little as $20 but typically no more than $100.

If you are unable to replace your lead pipes in the immediate, consider these other safety measures:

  1. Install a point of use water filter. A water filter will greatly reduce any potential lead exposure in your drinking water.
  2. Test your family for lead exposure.
  3. Run the water for five minutes before use to “flush out” stagnant or accumulated lead.
  4. Do not use hot water from the tap; it could contain higher levels of lead.

Lead pipes can cause serious problems for your health, but they are more common than you may think. If you’re dealing with lead pipes in your home plumbing system, you are not alone. Contact a trusted and reputable plumber today to learn more, and talk about what you need to do to keep your family healthy… and hydrated!

Contact Blanton’s Air at (910) 249-4898 for all your Fayetteville or Raleigh, NC HVAC and plumbing needs.

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