We are all pretty familiar with Lead Based Paint and how to test for it. But galvanized water pipes are now becoming a cause for concern and were commonly used up through the 1980s. Galvanizing is a 150-year-old metallurgical process used to coat steel or iron with zinc to inhibit corrosion. One can typically expect to get anywhere from 30 – 70 years of life out of galvanized pipes used for water delivery. So when did lead become a concern with these types of pipes?
Signs of Galvanized Pipe Failure
Low water pressure, discolored water, and leaks are symptoms of failing galvanized pipes. Leaks typically show themselves at exposed threaded joints as the galvanized coating is compromised when threaded or at small corrosion spots of the outer surface of the pipe that leak periodically (leaking and self-sealing) until severe enough to leak continuously. These are often undetectable pinhole leaks somewhere in hidden wall cavities. A hidden moisture source that will often lead to a mold infestation.
Galvanized Pipes and Lead
Lead in drinking water typically originates from lead pipes or bronze/brass fittings that contain lead. But now a new study has revealed that galvanized steel pipes coated with zinc that contains lead can also be a significant source of lead contamination in drinking water. When copper pipes are fitted upstream from galvanized steel piping, lead release from zinc coating downstream can be exacerbated.
Lead Contamination Risks
Lead is highly toxic to humans and animals (even in low doses). Lead can enter the body through ingestion or dissolved in drinking water. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note the following ill-health effects:
- Central Nervous System Damage
- Learning and Attention Deficits
- Behavioral Issues
- Slow Physical/Mental Development
- Impaired Vision/Motor Co-ordination
- Poor Hearing
Adults show the following symptoms when exposed to higher / long term lead:
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Problems
- Neurological Problems
- Disrupts Reproductive Systems
- Decreases Fertility
- Fetal Development Problems
- Disrupts Digestive Systems
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Memory Loss
- Painful Muscles and Joints
What’s One to Do With Galvanized Water Pipes?
First, stop drinking water from the tap and look into a good lead water filter (as an interim treatment) and/or bottled water delivery services. Then have your home’s water supply tested for lead that you can often do yourself. The best course of action (long-term) is to replace the galvanized water pipes in your home with newer non-lead bearing pipes. Still not sure what to do or not comfortable doing it yourself, then call the Building Biologists at GreenWorks to help.