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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AGE of PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES
AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
ANTI SCALD VALVES
ANODES & DIP TUBES on WATER HEATERS
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEPTIC
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BACKWATER VALVES, SEWER LINE
BATH & KITCHEN DESIGN GUIDE
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
FAUCETS & CONTROLS, KITCHEN & BATH
FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, HOW to REDUCE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
ODORS, URINE REMOVAL
PIPING IN BUILDINGS, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVES - TP Valves on Boilers
RELIEF VALVES - STEAM TP VALVES
RELIEF VALVES - Water Heaters
RELIEF VALVES - Water Tanks
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
SEPTIC METHANE GAS
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMPS & TANKS
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SOURCE ALTERNATIVES
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Lead pipes in buildings: this article discusses identification of lead drain or water supply piping, durability, leaks, health questions. We give a brief history of the use of lead supply & drain pipes, we illustrate where you will find and how to recognize lead pipes, and we discuss the question of which lead pipes need replacement and what the health and leak issues really are with lead plumbing. Our page top photo illustrates an easy-to-spot lead water supply pipe: the building water main entering at left of the water meter. The articles at this website will answer most questions about water supply & drain piping, wells, & water tanks as well as many other building plumbing system inspection or defect topics.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
How to spot lead water pipes in buildings
Lead water entry mains & Lead Drain Pipes in Buildings
Our photo at above left shows a lead water main entering the building - to the left of the water meter. At above right simliar but larger-diameter lead piping is used to drain plumbing fixtures.
In our OPINION both lead water supply piping and lead drain piping are potentially hazardous sources of lead in drinking water. The lead supply pipe risks are obvious and are discussed in this article. The hazard of lead drain piping are a bit more subtle and rest in the possible discharge of lead containing water into private sewer systems and thus into local aquifers.
The life expectancy of lead water supply piping is indefinite in some soils and in more corrosive soils we have plumbers' opinions that the service life of buried lead water supply piping is 40 to 50 years.
The life expectancy of lead drain piping may be 50 years or longer, but varies by water corrosivity and amount of use as well as mechanical disturbance. Below we include a photograph and text of corroded leaky lead drain piping below a toilet.
Our own tests confirmed that where water is aggressive (leaching out lead from the pipes) and or where water that has been sitting in lead piping over night lead levels can be considerably higher than the US EPA standard cited above.
Our photo (left) shows a lead water supply pipe delivering water below a bathroom sink. The right-hand pipe from the floor to the galvanized iron tee is lead, which you can recognize by the pipe diameter, by the lead wipe joint at the connection, and if necessary by gently scraping the pipe or using a magnet (lead is not magnetic but then niether is brass). Notice that the left hand water supply riser has already been replaced.
Watch out: our tests have found that running the water until cold water from the street is felt at the tap will reduce the levels of lead in building water and in some tests that lead level was below the current EPA standard. However in our OPINION and that of at least one writer from the US EPA, because of numerous variables this is not a safe reliable way to avoid ingesting lead.
There may be other reasons besides leaks to replace lead water supply piping, including possible health concerns (arguable), or poor water pressure or flow.
Lead Water Pipes & Poor Water Pressure: Up until World War II, most of the service pipes in built-up areas were lead. While these generally provide good service, they are small in diameter and may have to be replaced.
Long runs of relatively small (1/2-inch diameter) pipe result in considerable pressure drop, especially with more than one fixture flowing. Solutions include replacement with larger pipe or shortening the runs.
Also, lead is relatively soft, and if building settlement occurs, there is a chance of leakage or crimping the pipe. Leaks can also occur at connections as a result of long-term deterioration.
Another source of water entry main piping leaks is a little more subtle:
Many of the old lead service lines were connected to a galvanized nipple – a short piece of steel
that was often in contact with the soil. This pipe rusts on the outside and inside, and may be close to the end of its life. It is often wise to replace this as a precautionary measure.
Don't assume that because visible building drain piping in an old house is cast iron that no lead pipe bends were used.
As our lead toilet bend photograph (left) shows, often the toilet in older homes was mounted using a lead drain line.
- Home Reference Book, used with permission.
Watch out: a lead drain line below a bath tub was identified in our photo at left - found by viewing the floor piping seen at a plumbing access opening in a 1935-built home in Poughkeepsie, NY.
We did not see any signs that the lead drain (the silver-gray colored, bulged horizontal pipe in our photo (left)).
But because this second-floor bathroom was constructed using a poured concrete floor, and because asbestos pipe insulation was present on the brass hot water supply pipe (parallel to and above the lead drain line shown at left - see BRASS WATER PIPES), when this drain leaks and needs repairs, extra costs will be involved, both to access the concrete encased piping, and to properly handle the asbestos insulation.
Until there is a leak, this piping and the asbestos insulation should be left undisturbed.
See our detailed articles about lead plumbing pipes in buildings at
Questions & answers or comments about lead supply or drain piping in buildings: hazards, lead poisoning, leaks, repair, replacement.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
"The voluntary standard established in the United States under ASTM F-963 and the European standard under EN-71 for soluble lead in toys (lead which may migrate from the toy and be ingested by the child) is 90 parts-per-million. At that level, any intentional use of lead in paints or other surface coatings containing lead would immediately put the toy over the permitted limit."
"Under federal law, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces a standard for total lead of 600 ppm. Recently, the CPSC refused to lower the lead limit in paint and other similar surface coating materials to 100 ppm after finding that most paints sold in the United States were already at or below that level and, therefore, these materials did not present an unreasonable risk of injury warranting further government regulation."
"The lead-in-construction standard was intended to apply to any detectable concentration of lead in paint, as even small concentrations of lead can result in unacceptable employee exposures depending upon on the method of removal and other workplace conditions. Since these conditions can vary greatly, the lead-in-construction standard was written to require exposure monitoring or the use of historical or objective data to ensure that employee exposures do not exceed the action level. Historical data may be applied to all construction tasks involving lead. Objective data was intended to apply to all tasks other than those listed under paragraph (d)(2) of the standard.
["OSHA does not consider X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to be an acceptable method of analysis. As stated in your letter, XRF analyzers are generally considered accurate when concentrations of lead in paint exceed 1 mg/cm�. For the purposes of occupational health, these levels are considered substantial and may easily present an exposure hazard. Without having conducted monitoring, or without the benefit of historical or objective data, the employer has no assurance of the employee's exposure. "
"Other regulatory agencies, such as Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) have designated levels of lead in paint below which they consider the paint to be non-lead containing. The missions of these agencies differ from OSHA's, and for that reason, OSHA cannot recognize these levels as safe under workplace situations"
We recommend reviewing this position letter from OSHA. -- DF