Lead has been used in plumbing pipes throughout history because it's durable and easy to work with. Unfortunately, lead can leach into water running through the pipes, including the water that you drink. Lead in your drinking water is unsafe even in very small amounts. It can cause severe developmental delays in children, and it can damage your kidneys and your nervous system.
If you're aware of the dangers of lead, you may be wondering if you have lead pipes in your home. While newly built homes don't use lead for plumbing pipes, older homes may still have them. Lead pipes aren't the only concern, either, as lead solder was also frequently used to weld metal pipes together, and it can also leach into your drinking water. In addition, sometimes your home's supply line that connects it to the municipal water system may be made of lead even if the pipes in your home are made from another material. For more info about how you can check for sources of lead that can end up in your drinking water, read on.
It's easy to tell if the plumbing pipes in your home are made out of lead. All you need is a coin and a magnet. Try attaching the magnet to the pipes in your home. If the magnet sticks to the pipes, they're made from either cast iron or galvanized steel. Lead isn't magnetic, so the magnet won't stick to them.
After trying to attach the magnet to your pipes, scrape them with a coin. When you scratch a copper pipe, the scratch will look red. When you scratch a lead pipe, the scratch will be a shiny gray color. If you find any lead pipes in your home, you'll need to have them replaced as soon as possible.
The solder that's used to weld two sections of pipe together sometimes contains lead. Unfortunately, it's more difficult to test for lead solder than it is to check if a pipe is made from lead.
The best way to see if your pipes have lead solder is to have your water tested by a laboratory. Let the water sit in your pipes for a whole day to give the lead in the solder enough time to leach into the water, then take a water sample. If the sample contains lead, you may either have lead solder in your pipes or your home's supply line may be made of lead.
Lead Supply Line
The supply line is the pipe that connects the large pipes in the city's water system to your home, and lead pipes were sometimes used as supply lines because of their durability. Unfortunately, the supply line is buried underground, so you can't see it easily.
The first step in checking to see if you have a lead supply line is the same as for lead solder. You need to have your water tested to see if it has lead in it. If you have lead in your water, you'll need to have your supply line partially excavated by a plumber so it can be examined.
If you have any sources of lead in your home that could end up in your drinking water, you need to switch to bottled water until the lead can be removed. Call a plumber to have all of your lead pipes replaced, including your supply line if necessary. If your pipes contain lead solder, you'll have to repipe your home with new plumbing that doesn't contain lead. Keeping lead out of your drinking water is important to avoid its harmful health effects, so you need to take action to eliminate the source of lead as soon as possible once you have found it.