Is Your Drinking Water Guaranteed?
In the UK we don’t assume there’ll be any issues with drinking tap water at home. How safe is your drinking water, and what can you do to make sure it really is okay for your household? Also, what measures should you take to ensure you have a reliable water supply at all times?
Could You Have Lead in Your Drinking Water?
Many domestic water supply pipes were made of lead before 1970 in the UK. Although it is now illegal for houses to have lead water pipes installed, many of the service pipes which supply water to houses built before 1970 are still made of lead. These are the pipes that connect the public water main to individual properties.
It’s also more likely to be the case that an older house will have a lead supply pipe if the kitchen has not been modernised.
Another way lead may be present is if lead solder has been used to join copper pipework together. This could happen if an unqualified plumber, or someone doing their own household plumbing had undertaken the work. Lead solder can still be used on closed central heating systems but it is illegal to use it to connect drinking water pipes.
How Dangerous in Lead in Drinking Water?
The current standard for the permitted levels of lead in UK drinking water is a maximum of 10 micrograms per litre. This applies to cold water from taps, used for drinking. These levels are designated as safe, but the official government advice is to reduce them wherever possible.
This is particularly true for households where someone is pregnant, or there are young children.
In short then, water with the permitted lead levels is officially safe. It’s better to be really safe and remove the potential for lead contamination altogether.
A simple way to check if you have lead pipework is to locate the pipe leading to your kitchen tap. If it appears soft, so you can gently scrape at it to reveal a silvery surface, then it is made of lead. You can also tap it with a metal object and if it sounds dull, then this also means it is likely to be lead.
If you’re at all unsure, get a professional to check for you.