You can find the century’s old homes in some neighborhoods in your area. They are coveted by interested buyers because of their style, location, and charm. If you have lived in an older home for some years, you have done your fair share of remodeling your home.
Perhaps, you have put on a new roof, updated the color scheme, and refinished the floors. What about your home’s pipes? Is your home 40 years old and more? Forty years ago, galvanized pipes were a popular choice with homebuilders. However, studies show that galvanized pipes can pose potential health risks to people. Because of their age, older homes are prone to have galvanized pipes in their plumbing system.
One of the major health risks of people in the United States is lead in drinking water. Indeed, the city’s water is generally safe. However, the plumbing system in most older buildings and historic homes poses potential health risks to the people.
Thus, in this article, we will discuss how lead can contaminate the water. In addition, we will discuss the risks of having galvanized pipes. Finally, we will also discuss the methods to prevent lead in our drinking water.
Benefits of Galvanized Pipes
When galvanized pipes were first used, homeowners prefer them since they were less costly than copper. These kinds of pipes are chosen in large construction projects, especially for outdoor plumbing. Indeed, galvanized pipes are less expensive than copper. Furthermore, it is more durable than plastic.
One more benefit of galvanized pipes is that they have a wider diameter that can allow more water to pass through them when compared to copper.
Life Expectancy of Galvanized Water Pipes
Even under the best conditions, galvanized plumbing will corrode over time. The typical lifespan is from 25 to 40 years. But in areas where there is hard water, your pipes can fail more quickly. While the pipes appear fine on the outside, they can be rusting on the inside. The deposits on the interior can build over time. This can restrict the water flow and decrease the water pressure inside the home.
Drawbacks of Using Galvanized Pipes
Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that are coated with zinc. This was done to prevent corrosion and rust. But after years of exposure to water, galvanized pipes will rust and corrode on the inside. Indeed, this is bad news for your plumbing, considering how often water runs through it.
Plumbers and homebuilders have used galvanized pipes for their homes even before the 1960s. As galvanized pipes age, the zinc coating erodes, which leads to pipes corrosion.
When the pipes corrode, lead, a dangerous toxin can build up in the pipes. Take note that galvanized plumbing could pose a serious health hazard. This is true if the pipes are not replaced or updated with safer pipes.
The implementation of these action levels can help to drink water suppliers to determine the source of lead. This can also help to use corrosion control to reduce its concentration. Indeed, residential monitoring will seek to identify lead sources in both the distribution system plus residential plumbing. Whereas non-residential monitoring will help focus primarily on the source of lead within your home.
Indeed, its effects on distribution systems plus its potential impacts on the health of the populations are varied and complex. Corrosion in the drinking water distribution system can occur in various types of materials. This can include polyvinyl chloride, cement, and metals. This can increase the leaching of contaminants from these kinds of materials. Indeed, there is no single and reliable method to measure corrosion in drinking water distribution systems. While corrosion itself cannot be measured, the amount of lead in the tap water can be used to determine the indication of corrosion.
There are no direct health effects linked to corrosion in the various distribution systems when it comes to health effects. However, corrosion can lead to the leaching of contaminants that would greatly concern the Americans. The main contaminant of major concern is lead. This is used to trigger corrosion control programs.
Meanwhile, other contaminants that can be leached due to corrosion in the water distribution systems include iron and copper. Guidelines for copper and iron based on aesthetic consideration include its taste and color. Copper has an aesthetic objective of 1.0 mg/L, and it is considered non-toxic except when consumed in high doses.
However, you must be concerned about lead contamination and cadmium contamination. This is true if your water has more than 1.0 mg/L of zinc in it. Whenever zinc is detected in tap water, and it is above 1.0 mg/L, most likely, the source of zinc is the galvanized piping. The normal concentrations of zinc in the groundwater can be below 0.1 mg/L. If the zinc level is high, make sure to have your water tested at a lab that can measure lead and cadmium at the levels set by the EPA. Make sure that you use a stagnant water sample found in your plumbing system for at least six hours in this kind of test. The best treatment alternative is to make sure to reduce the corrosiveness of the water source.
Health Risks of Galvanized Water Pipes
Lead consumption can lead to severe health problems with similar symptoms like flu. You can experience high fever, chills, and muscle aches if there is a significant amount of lead in the water due to old galvanizing piping. These health problems will continue until you solve the problem.
Children are vulnerable to lead poisoning. They can suffer the following effects even when they are exposed to low levels:
- Damage to the brain and the nervous system
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, and behavioral problems
- Slow mental and physical development
- Poor hearing
- Impaired motor coordination and vision
Adults are not as susceptible to lead poisoning as children, sickly, and elderly. However, exposure to higher concentrations or long-term exposure can pose the following health risks to adults:
- High blood pressure
- Bone problems
- Kidney problems
- Neurological problems
- Disruptive reproductive system. This can decrease fertility among men and women.
- Problems with developing fetus during pregnancy which leads to slow development, stillbirths, and congenital disabilities
- Disruptive digestive system
- Painful muscles and joints
- Memory loss and difficulty in concentrating
As such, it is best to switch to the consumption of bottled water until you solve your piping problems. Have a plumber inspect your system if you think that your pipes are making you ill.
Take note that if you keep drinking water from galvanized pipes for a longer period, you will increase your risk of several diseases. If you live in an older house, you must test your water supply to make sure that it is free of chemical elements and the pH level is balanced.
Determining if you have Galvanized Pipes at Home
If you continue to use galvanized pipes, the corroded pipes can release lead into the tap water. But the question now is, how do you know if you have galvanized pipes?
When it is first installed, galvanized pipes will look similar to nickel. But through the years, it can change its color depending on its environment. It can become darker and duller or lighter.
To determine if you have galvanized pipes, begin searching at the location where the pipes enter your home. Next, find the waterline. A screwdriver and a magnet will work well to determine what your pipes are made of.
If you scratch your pipes using a screwdriver, you will found out that it has the same color as a penny. As such, they are made of copper. Furthermore, you will find out that the copper pipe will not stick to the magnet. Meanwhile, if your pipes are white, capped in places, and a magnet doesn’t stick to them, they must be made of plastic. Whenever you scratch the surface of the pipe, and it reveals a grayish-silver color and the magnet does not stick to them, then you have galvanized steel pipes.
But if your pipe scratches easily because of soft metal, it is gray, and a magnet does not stick to it, perhaps you are dealing with lead pipes. You must replace it as soon as possible. If you are unsure or have questions on your mind, you can ask for help from the experts to assess the pipes at your home.
Test your Pipes for Lead
If you have found out that you have lead plumbing or galvanized pipes at your home, one major concern is the possible release of lead into your drinking water. You might want to ask for help from the experts on how to test your water for lead.
Some states have taken steps in making their water safe. This includes checking for lead in the service pipes to the residence. However, homeowners must be responsible for checking the plumbing at their homes.
Other Plumbing Issues Due to Galvanized Pipes
Indeed, galvanized pipes can cause health hazards to you and your family. Apart from this, it can cause plumbing problems that are less severe but can still be frustrating. Due to the breakdown in your pipes, the water pressure inside your home or uncertain places can be lessened.
For example, some taps can have more pressure than others because of inconsistent erosion. Furthermore, you can have discolored water that often looks brownish-reddish in color. Sometimes, water can flow through your taps. The erosion can lead to full-blown leaks in the pipes, and the water can damage the ceilings and walls.
Due to the restriction of the line, corrosion in the galvanized pipes can lead to lower water pressure throughout your home. Furthermore, galvanized pipes will rust and lead to leaks. In the end, this will cause more damage to your home.
Make your Home Safe
The only way to ensure that your home is free from lead and other health hazards is to replace those lead-containing and galvanized household pipes. You can contact experienced technicians now. Identify the types of pipes in your home and repipe your plumbing system. This will help you ensure that you and your loved ones will be free from any water contamination.
Removing Lead from Drinking Water
A Berkey Water filter has a standard Black Berkey filter that can remove lead in the water. Apart from lead, it can also eliminate all other heavy metals as much as 99.9%. Furthermore, it can also remove other drinking water contaminants such as chemicals, VOCs, viruses, and bacteria from the drinking water. Indeed, the water filtered through the Berkey Water Filter is safe for drinking.
In sum, although galvanized pipes are still considered a safe material for drinking water, there are still some health concerns if the water supply is corrosive because of its acidic condition. The public water supplies treat their water to make it non-corrosive. Thus, this is not a major concern on a public water system. The concern is not for iron or zinc to leach on your pipe. But for cadmium or lead affect the water.
The primary drinking water standards for cadmium or lead are 0.015 and 0.005 mg/L. If you are living in a home with a private well water system and the plumbing is galvanized pipe, you should have the water tested. This is true if the water has a slightly bitter taste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the standard of 5 mg/L for zinc because it can affect the taste.
Analysis and the treatment of various contaminants can include various factors that can contribute to the leaching and corrosion of the contaminants from drinking water distribution systems. The major factors include the age of the plumbing systems, the water's stagnation time, and the quality of the water in the system. Metal leeching can be affected differently by these factors. Using lead as one trigger can initiate corrosion control programs in a drinking water distribution system. Action levels have been developed for both the non-residential and residential buildings.