So You're a Parent? Women's Interest

A Guide to the Potential Problems of Lead Plumbing Pipes

Contamination Concerns – A Guide to the Potential Problems of Lead Plumbing Pipes
Written by Noelle Kelly

Lead was subject to a widespread ban in the eighties after scientists discovered its toxic effects on drinking water.

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Contamination Concerns – A Guide to the Potential Problems of Lead Plumbing Pipes

Adults of a certain age will surely remember the controversy surrounding asbestos in the 1980s. After many decades of use as a building material, it was revealed to be highly toxic.  Nowadays, it seems absurd to think that anybody would construct houses with such a dangerous substance. Yet, at the time, we simply didn’t know any better.

While asbestos is the poster child for international health blunders, there are other dangerous substances in our neighbourhoods. Lead was subject to a widespread ban in the eighties after scientists discovered its toxic effects on drinking water.

It is no longer used to build plumbing pipes but, like asbestos, there are still some areas where it lingers unseen.

This guide to identifying lead pipes will help you determine if your home or business is safe. If you suspect the presence of lead, don’t hesitate in finding a professional local plumber to install replacements. 

What Is Lead?

Lead is a dense, heavy metal. Its physical characteristics are interesting, because it remains soft and malleable in spite of this density. For an extremely long time (since the Roman Empire), the material was used to construct plumbing pipes.

It easy to shape and highly resistant to corrosion. Therefore, the substance was deemed suitable for everything from pharmaceuticals to currency, roofing, and weapons production. It wasn’t until the eighties that we discovered its disastrous impact on the human body.

Why Is Lead Poisonous?

Firstly, being in the same room as a lead pipe won’t make you sick. Like asbestos, there needs to be a certain kind of contact. Asbestos is inert until disturbed. Lead generally needs to be ingested to cause serious sickness. This is why drinking water can become contaminated.    

If exposure via drinking water is prolonged enough, symptoms may include rapid weight loss, abdominal pains, vomiting, hearing loss, developmental impairment (particularly in babies and young children), memory problems, hypertension, premature birth, and more.

Is Your Property Like to Contain Lead?

There can be serious, irreversible consequences for health. This is why it’s important to be sure your home or business has safe plumbing. Government advice says only properties built before the 1970s are at risk and not all of them would have originally contained lead anyway.

Do be aware that the vast majority of buildings have already been checked for the material in the years since its widespread ban. Only a tiny proportion will have been missed out of this process. It’s unlikely that yours would be one of them, but it’s always better to be sure.

What Do Lead Pipes Look Like?

To check your plumbing, inspect the pipes under the kitchen sink and at the internal stop tap. In fact, anywhere mains water enters the building is a good place to look. The biggest indicator of lead is that curious softness. These pipes can be gently eroded with the fingernails.    

If they are scraped a little with a nail, the dull colour on the top is rubbed away and reveals the shiny metal underside. Another way to check is to strike the pipe with a metal object. If it produces a ringing sound, it’s copper or iron. If it thuds dully, it could be made out of lead.

What Is the Next Step?

If you do find lead pipes in your home or business, there’s no need to panic. Turn off the water to the building and make sure nobody turns it back on. Drink only from uncontaminated sources (bottled water, taps from other buildings, etc.) until the lead has been removed.

The next step is to call a local plumbing service. They’ll send somebody out to your location as quickly as possible with replacement pipes. If you don’t have any symptoms of sickness, there’s probably no need to consult with a doctor unless advised by a professional.

Putting Lead Poisoning Into Perspective

The reality is that lead does cause serious illness after a long enough exposure. However, the best course of action is to arrange for the toxic materials to be removed quickly. Unless a doctor tells you otherwise, there’s no reason to believe you have lasting damage.

Swift, decisive action is recommended, but remember that toxicity accumulates slowly. If you find lead pipes and you’re not sick, you won’t get ill in the time it takes for a plumber to visit and rectify the problem.

Identity Magazine is all about guiding women to discover their powers of Self-AcceptanceAppreciation, and Personal Achievement. We ask that every contributor and expert answer  the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the current article they have writtenIn that way, and as a team, we hope to encourage and motivate each other, thus inspiring you to Get All A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.

That not all will enjoy my writing.

2. What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? On the other hand OR in contrastare there elements of who you are that you’re still working on appreciating?

I appreciate my ability to be creative.

3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the goals and dreams that you still have.

Proud to have the writing skill.

4. Of course, we all have imperfections, or so we think. In truth, we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? Likewise, what imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?

Ha, Many! I embrace them all.

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to appreciate and express all the positive traits that make you…well…YOU! In fact, sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (We assure you!) Therefore, Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my family.

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About the author

Noelle Kelly

Noelle is a freelance writer working for a variety of businesses across Australia. With a portfolio of work spanning a plethora of countries, industries and companies, she is always looking to broaden her understanding of the business landscape.

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