Lead was a very useful material. It was particularly well suited for making pipes because as a metal it was soft, so easy to work into the desired shape. In fact the word plumbing comes from the Latin for lead, plumbum. Unfortunately, along with the widespread use of lead came health problems, including stillbirths and infant mortality. Nowadays lead may seem like a thing of the past, but in fact houses in the UK built before 1970 may still have lead pipework. So how urgent an issue is lead pipe replacement?
What Are the Dangers?
Lead poisoning through contaminated water does not show immediate symptoms. Rather, it comes from a build up of lead through repeated exposure to small quantities. Pregnant women and children are more susceptible to be affected by short-term exposure. The symptoms of lead poisoning include abdominal pain and headaches, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Clearly then, while lead contamination may not lead to dramatic poisoning, it is definitely a health hazard and it can have long-term effects on those exposed to it. It’s important for you to have confidence in your domestic water supply, so that you can feel your home is safe for everyone in it.
Checking Your Pipes and Fixing the Problem
You can check for lead pipework yourself by looking at the service pipe leading to the kitchen tap. This will probably be under the sink or behind it. You can also check for it behind or in kitchen cupboards. If the pipe’s surface can easily be marked, gently, with a knife; or when you scrape at it, it reveals a shiny, metallic colour, then it is very likely made of lead. Lead pipes, if unpainted, can also appear a dull grey colour.
If you’re unsure, give us a call. We’d be more than happy to check your pipework for you. Once we know, we can take steps for lead pipe replacement, using long-lasting, plastic pipes. This way you can be sure of a safe, reliable domestic water supply.