Insurance companies regularly remind homeowners and business owners of the downsides of old lead water pipes. There are two main cautions homeowners insurance companies such as Allstate and State Farm, among others, address on their official blogs and social media accounts:
- The health risk of lead in the water
- The increased risk of broken or bursting water pipes leading to mold and flooding.
Can You Get Lead Poisoning from Water?
Lead is poisonous. It can enter your body through the water you drink or through your lungs when you breathe in infected air. The air can be infected with lead when you have lead paint and sand it or even try to peel it off.
The problem isn’t the consumption of lead, it will be a small amount. However, the human body is incapable of processing lead, this means it stays in your body. As lead volumes increase in your body, you’ll start to experience issues. Lead poisoning often causes damage to your brain, kidneys, and nervous system. This will affect your quality of life. In serious cases, it causes seizures and even death.
Although the likelihood of lead poisoning has reduced dramatically it is something that everyone should be mindful of.
What Causes lead Poisoning?
Lead was used in paint and toys for many years. This was before anyone appreciated the issues it caused. Children are particularly vulnerable, especially if they chew on these toys.
Of course, modern toys don’t use lead, reducing the risk of exposure.
However, water pipes were traditionally made of lead. It was soft enough to be bent easily but durable enough to last for a long period of time. Unfortunately, as the water moves through the lead pipe it picks up particles of lead. The water supply becomes contaminated and you drink it.
You’ll need to check the pipes in your home and see if any of them are lead. If you have lead pipes they need to be removed and replaced with copper piping as soon as possible.
Another option to remove the lead is to use water purifiers. These are effectively filters that take the lead out of the water, along with other minerals. If you have lead pipes a water filter is essential to purify your water. Of course, even if you don’t have lead pipes water filters are a great idea, they will eliminate other contaminants, including bacteria, minerals, and heavy metals.
The Risk of Cracked and Bursting Lead Water Pipes
Aside from the potential significant health risk from the water, old lead pipes also come with an increased risk of cracks and bursting. Water damage, and the mold that is often associated with it, can rapidly become extensive and expensive.
As a result, insurance companies will often charge notably higher premiums to homes and businesses that still have them. In fact, depending on the circumstance, some insurers refuse to cover buildings until they have their old lead pipes replaced.
Consequently, insurers typically recommend replacing lead pipes as soon as possible. This is viewed as an important action to prevent water damage and dangerous mold from drips, leaks or flooding and is reflected on the amount paid every month in homeowners’ or commercial property policy premiums.
Identifying Lead Pipes
If you’re not sure whether you have lead pipes or not then consider the following. They are all symptoms of lead piping.
- Unpainted pipes that are a dull gray color and have swollen joints. The swollen joints occur where pipes join and are related to the amount of material being molded together.
- Lead is a surprisingly soft metal. If you scrape your pipes and the top layer comes off to reveal the shiny silver layer underneath, you’re dealing with lead pipes.
- You can also tap your pipes. Copper produces a high ringing tone, lead creates a dull thud. If you hear this then you’re dealing with lead pipes.
If you discover that you have lead pipes you need to take action quickly. All the lead pipes should be removed and replaced. Professional plumbing can do this for you. Of course, you should use a water filter while you’re waiting for the plumber, it will help to keep the household safe.
Don’t forget to tell your insurance company about the replacement as soon as it is complete, as it will likely help to reduce your premiums, too. Talk to your insurer about available discounts for choosing alternatives such as copper pipes, as many companies offer these options.