Your house is only as good as the quality of your plumbing. Plumbing contributes to the health of your family, or lack of it, because it’s where the water in our homes, schools and offices passes through.
If there are problems in the pipes, you can be certain problems in the water we
get from the tap will follow.
What Lead Is And Why It’s Harmful
One of the major environmental problems in the world today is lead.
It is a common substance, a soft metal, which can be found in the soil and in the air through vehicle exhaust.
It is commonly used in old paint, some toys, batteries and other construction materials.
Lead is also toxic. Long-term or excessive exposure to it—whether swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin—can cause serious health problems to humans. Infants and young kids though, are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.
Children exposed to lead might experience stunted bone and muscle growth, damaged nervous system, seizures and speech problems. It may have a negative impact on their mental development and might also contribute to behavioral problems.
But that doesn’t mean adults are invincible to lead.
Even low exposure to it can lead to hypertension, reduced kidney function, degraded semen quality and other health problems.
Lead travels to the body like zinc and other minerals and causes havoc to the area where it lands on. For instance, if it lodges in the blood stream, it will damage red blood cells and ultimately cause anemia.
How Is Lead Invading Homes?
Lead can get into your homes when the material used in the plumbing is made of lead.
Houses built before 1963 usually have lead pipes because it has the ability to resist pinhole leaks, yet soft enough to be shaped. Its toxicity had not been discovered yet.
Houses that have been modernized since then may not have lead pipes, but the fittings used to connect the pipes might be made of lead. Lead contamination may also come from metal taps, PVC pipes and from old service lines and distribution pipes in old suburbs, all of which contain lead. Even new pipe systems are allowed to have some lead in their design.
If you store your water in a rainwater tank, it might also contain lead.
A study revealed that a quarter of rainwater tanks in Victoria (that’s one in every four) have more than the acceptable levels of lead for drinking. That means there are more than 600,000 Australians who have too much lead in their drinking water!
Once the harsh, chlorinated water supply sits in these pipes—depending on how long, the acidity of the water and overall temperature—the lead might start leaching into the water. It’s the reason why experts recommend that you let the water run from the tap each morning—to clear the lead that might have accumulated in the water from the pipes.
Signs And Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning you should watch out for:
- Abdominal pain
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Irritability and other behavioral problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Bluish line along the gums, usually in adults
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Metallic taste in the mouth
Should You Be Worried?
Lead pipes have already been banned, but it may be worth checking if lead-based solder on brass fittings have been used in your plumbing. Ask your emergency Melbourne plumber to check this for you.
A large-scale study conducted in 2012 revealed that low-level lead contamination is widespread in Australian homes. Over half of the water samples taken from kitchen taps across New South Wales showed the presence of lead, with 8% of them exceeding the acceptable levels (10 micrograms per liter).
A follow-up study revealed that water also got contaminated with lead after it has passed through brass taps.
What Should You Do?
The Environment Protection Authority in 2008 recommended that partial replacement in old plumbing systems be done. But specialists believe doing this will do more harm than good because lead particles might be dislodged within the pipes.
You should avoid doing DIY replacement. Choosing the right lead-free plumbing fixtures will be a headache because regardless of the lead-free tag, manufacturers are allowed to have small amounts of lead in their product.
In fact, brass taps in Australia contains 2 to 4% lead. Lead solder manufacturers are also not obligated to label their products as unsuitable to be used in drinking water pipes.
Aside from hiring a professional plumber in Melbourne, you can lower the amount of lead in your water by doing these things:
- If you are unsure of your plumbing and would like to know if there is lead in your water, collect a sample of water from your kitchen and have it analyzed.
- Run the tap every morning for a full minute. It will be 10 liters of water wasted, but it will help remove majority of the lead that might be present in the water. Take note that this won’t work in high rise buildings where the pipes are significantly lengthier.
- Also avoid using hot water that has been sitting in the pipes for cooking or drinking to reduce lead and copper intake. This applies even if you have non-lead pipes.
To keep lead out of your home 100 percent, a complete replacement of all the lead pipes and fittings in your plumbing must be done. If you are unsure, call 03 9636 0156 and have a chat with a plumber in Melbourne about it today.