Renewing lead piping at home

For many years, lead was used as the prime material for water installations in homes all over the world. Because of that, many of these lead pipes are still in use, which represents a real health risk and also pollutes the environment. This article highlights the importance of renewing these pipes as soon as possible, other factors that require renewing pipes (such as leaks, drips or corrosion).


The buildings built in recent decades include, in general, pipes made of materials that can be classified into two groups, various types of plastic (such as polyethylene, polypropylene or PVC) on one side and copper on the other. However, Spain still have in old blocks of flats or houses lead water pipes or galvanized iron. These installations must be replaced as soon as possible because it is known now that of its highly contaminating agents in the water and pose a health hazard.


Lead pipes were widely used until the 1970s. From that time were replaced by galvanized iron (also deprecated now), plastic and copper. The main reason is that the corrosion of lead and iron pipes (and also bronze, an alloy of copper and tin that sometimes includes a percentage of lead) causes water pollution. This poses a risk not only for the liquid you drink, but also because it affects the food you eat, when the water continues through the environment chain.

Water installations should not contaminate or affect the quality of water from the initial source where it is collected to the point of consumption.


The Spanish Royal Decree 140/2003 of February the 7th, regulates the characteristics of drinking water and sanitary sewer facilities in Spain. It states that "the construction material, coating, welding and accessories of any installation must not transmit water polluting substances, other properties or worsen the quality of water from the collection point to its final consumption point." The pipes, according to the same law, must be resistant to internal corrosion at temperatures up to 40 ° C and the outside temperature materials from their immediate environment.

Annex I of the above Decree determines the maximum values of a number of both chemical and microbiological parameters as radioactivity allowed in drinking water. In the case of lead, the maximum allowed record until the end of 2003 was 50 micrograms per liter (a microgram is one thousand of a gram). That allowed limit is reduced by half in a decade, until the end of 2013, reaching only 10 micrograms per liter from January the 1st in 2014.


Factors that require renewing existing pipes.
Given these conditions, if household plumbing are lead or bronze replacement should be done as soon as possible. If they are of different materials, each user should pay attention to several factors, including leaks, corrosion at the end or around faucets and that all installation accessories are clean.


Other "symptoms" to be monitored are the appearance of damp on the wall, peeling paint or tile due to moisture itself, and the reduction of flow of water reaching the faucet. They can be caused by water leaks. I strongly recommend that the system inspected by a professional every two to three years and recommend performing a leak test and operating test every four years.


If moisture in the wall are observed or a reduction in the flow of water reaches the faucet, probably it is required a renewal of the pipes installation.

The same Royal Decree states in Article 20 that it is the town hall responsibility to administer the quality of water for human consumption and "should take all the necessary measures to ensure the realization of the control of water quality at the consumer's tap and the establishing a regular report of the results." Meanwhile, it establishes January the 1st of 2012 the deadline for "any reforms and adjustments required in public and private networks and distribution facilities inside public buildings and installations with public or commercial activities.


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