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Our lovely new house has got lead pipes...

(28 Posts)
Iwannamovenow Wed 11-Jul-12 10:16:17

We knew the pipework may need re-doing, so it's not really a suprise.

How bad is it for us to drink?
I'm just looking on the defra site and it says it's worse for infants.

Dh said we all would have had water from lead pipes, when we were younger etc.

I've got ds2 15 months and ds1 who's 8.
I'm thinking of getting bottled water, to make up their drinks with.
Will me, dh and dsd (15) be ok from it?

Dh is in the middle of ripping the bathroom out, and will replace the pipes with copper. But the ones in the wall, going down into the kitchen, we were hoping to leave until we do the kitchen.

Is this really bad?

Any advice welcome.

befrazzled Wed 11-Jul-12 10:41:36

We had some lead pipes in our house, the cost of replacing them was covered by weighing in the lead pipes we removed. If you get someone else to do it make sure they don't take the pipes with them! I think I would get it done asap but I am sure it won't be a problem in the short term.

Mytholmroyd Wed 11-Jul-12 10:53:57

In the short-term at least, don't drink the first water you draw off in the morning (ie what has been sitting in the pipes all night) and buy a water filter for the children's drinking water - you can get fairly cheap jug version from Boots and they remove almost all the lead (and most other heavy metals). We now have one installed on the fridge for drinking water.

As you say, adults can cope with lead much better than small children. I measured the lead in our water supply when we moved into our Victorian house (have access to a machine to do that) and it was way above the recommended Yorkshire water limit at first draw and I wouldn't risk it for growing children. You are probably okay if you are in a hard water area (the calcium in the water has a protective effect) but if you are in a soft water area like we are it can be a problem.

The WHO are continually revising the "safe" level of blood lead in children downwards as even levels of lead that can cause no apparent symptoms can affect future neurological development. My kids had prehistoric levels of lead in their milk teeth - so I know it worked!

Iwannamovenow Wed 11-Jul-12 10:57:13

Thanks, dh will be doing all the work so that's not a problem.

Defra says it's a risk to infants.
Think i'll get some bottled water to be on the safe side.

Iwannamovenow Wed 11-Jul-12 11:01:03

Do you mean britta type water filters, will they remove the lead?

Mytholmroyd Wed 11-Jul-12 11:12:30

Yes, they remove virtually all heavy metals in water - much cheaper than buying bottled!

Viviennemary Wed 11-Jul-12 11:23:36

A lot of people grew up in a house with lead pipes. Run the water for a good few seconds. I was always taught to do that. Or get a filter. Don't drink the water from the bathroom taps.

PigletJohn Wed 11-Jul-12 11:25:57

Contact your water company and say you have lead pipes, ask them to test the water for lead content. You probably also have lead pipes under the ground leading from the pavement to your internal stop-cock. Water companies may have a subsidy for replacing lead pipes, and/or will replace any lead pipes they on outside the boundary, if you replace yours inside the boundary. It is much easier to connect your new pipes to their new pipes than to try to join new to old.

In my experience they took a long time to come and do the test, and I don't think you can apply for the subsidy until it has been done.

Digging a trench for new pipes is not complicated, but quite hard work and some plumbers may not like the idea, but you can do it yourself provided you lay to the required standard and the watr company inspects to check before you fill the trench in. The water co should have an explanatory leaflet or web page as it is a job that happens every day.

If you are modernising the house, put in a good big plastic pipe all the way to the pavement - 25mm, or 32mm, the materials cost difference for the bigger one is very slight. This will give better water flow so it will gush out if you later fit a Megaflow or a big combi. You need large stop-cocks as well otherwise the flow will be strangled as soon as it gets into the house.

Iwannamovenow Wed 11-Jul-12 11:27:30

Brilliant, thanks... I'll get one today.

What about when cooking? Do I use the filtered water to cook pasta etc?

Dh looks worried, when i've mentioned running the taps because we're on a water meter.

Think he'll replace the other pipes sooner rather than later grin

genug Wed 11-Jul-12 11:38:37

Another reason for not switching over to a meter...

I was going to say all we do is to run the tap for as long as we can wait before drawing drinking water. I can't say the kids are all free from deformity, but neither can I say the pipes have held them back.

In our youth, to avoid repainting the guttering [another house], we followed modern advice and replaced with plastic. Bad mistake. The old guttering was fine but needed repainting. The plastic needed replacing before giving a hundred years' service! What a rip off!

AdventuresWithVoles Wed 11-Jul-12 12:20:13

where do you live? If the water is mostly "hard", then the lead has poor chances to diffuse into the pipes, because calcium already fills the molecular spaces that lead would get into. So the water can only have very low lead levels if you have hard water. Drinking soft water from lead pipes is much more of a problem.

Do not drink from hot water pipes either (more lead diffuses into hot water). That is the main reason for running the tap for a minute before drinking, too, btw.

I Had to research all this LOTS with our last house, I would not worry about drinking it for now if you can fix it relatively soon. We also had lead paint on skirting boards & I sent off samples to county lab to check the house contamination wasn't too bad. Also had DS tested for lead levels in blood sad.

Metal gutters are a swine to replace, seriously heavy & rotten iron ones we had to take off last house (about 73 yrs old).

PigletJohn Wed 11-Jul-12 12:20:53

I'm pretty sure the amount of lead in the water clinging to your boiled cabbage will be insignificant.

IIRC lead affects the development of the brain in infants. Children chewing lead paint seemed to be common in US, and the link was very clear with leaded petrol in homes near heavy traffic.

bottle-feed and glasses of squash I would suggest you use a Brita or similar filter, try to get one that fits into your fridge door, then you will always have fresh cool water ready to use (and it prevents mould and algae growth)

get onto the water co for your lead content test, then you will know if the problem is significant or not.

If you are going to replace the incoming service pipe sooner or later, use a 22mm copper pipe from the stopcock, and tee off any 15mm pipes from that. Then your hot and your cold services, and your washing machine or garden hose, will not be stealing flow from each other.

AdventuresWithVoles Wed 11-Jul-12 12:48:56

Some good advice here.

iseenodust Wed 11-Jul-12 12:54:33

I think the water company replaced the lead pipes we had into the house from the boundary for free. However at that point they were still lead mains pipes (right term?).

PigletJohn Wed 11-Jul-12 13:30:46

it's unusual. The mains in the road are mostly iron, not lead, and some of them have been replaced in blue plastic by now, usually becauuse the old pipes leak.

Iwannamovenow Wed 11-Jul-12 18:47:29

Thanks for all the advice.
I've bought a filter today, and i'll ask the water company to come and test it.

We're in the North West, so we have soft water.

DontEatTheVolesKids Wed 11-Jul-12 20:06:05

sorry to hear that, I would be very careful in that case.

Iwannamovenow Fri 03-Aug-12 20:08:40

The water's been tested, results came back today and it says that our water was found to contain 1.88 microgrames per litre.

United utilities water quality standard is 10 microgrames per litre.

So... i'm thinking that means that it's ok?

The man who did the testing said some peoples levels are in the hundreds, and that I should be concerned if it looks like tea leaves in the water, because that's bits of lead.

AndOnAndOnAndOn Fri 03-Aug-12 20:16:00

Iwanna, sounds ok to me, though I'm no expert.

How did you go about getting the water tested?

Iwannamovenow Fri 03-Aug-12 20:28:21

I sent them an email and asked.

Got a reply the next day saying no problem and asking me to ring them, so I did... and the person in customer services knew nothing about it, and said they didn't do that sort of thing confused until I explained about the email and they asked some other department.

Appointment was made for a week later, I was given a 2 hour appointment window and nice man came and filled his thing up grin

Results came a week later.

PigletJohn Fri 03-Aug-12 22:10:17

I don't keep up with lead in water, only had to deal with it once; but usually the UK water standards are way better than the safety levels, and your sound less than 20% of the permitted amount, so I presume no big deal.

Do you have a bottle fed baby? I'd be tempted to take extra care if so, but a Brita in the fridge should take care of that.

If you're thinking of having your pipes changed, see if the water co or local authority offers a subsidy for lead pipe replacement; tell them you want their pipes (up to the boundary) changed as well. If you are running a new plastic pipe, go for a good big one. Cost is not much higher for 25m of 32mm pipe, than for 25 of 20mm pipe, which is much smaller.

morecoffeeplease Mon 25-Nov-13 14:21:23

Make sure you don't use lead solder or solder containing any lead at all when you connect up copper pipes to the water supply! It's illegal (if you are trade) and negates the point of replacing the lead pipes in the first place!

salemtheteenagecat Mon 08-Aug-16 21:13:46

We have just recently started decorating our bedroom and we have found what appears to be a lead pipe with cold water running through! Everything in the house seems to be copper pipes bar this one pipe! How dangerous is it? Will it affect our drinking water? I am 7months pregnant and my mind is now going into over drive! Fil has said we need to rip it out asap (obviously by a professional) I am now in a right old state but think this is driven by hormones! I've read conflicting information will a plumber help or is this the water board job? Xx

PigletJohn Mon 08-Aug-16 21:51:37

Unless it feeds the cold tap at the kitchen sink, you are unlikely to be drinking it.

Follow the pipe back from the sink and see where it goes.

You can contact the water co and ask them to test your drinking water f.o.c. If you are in an old house there might still be lead pipes in the ground feeding your house.

Have the test done before starting any plumbing work.

If you are bottle feeding, get a Brita water filter or similar until you get the test results.

Brita captures heavy metals and does not add sodium (I asked them about that before)

A plumber or DIYer can replace pipes. If underground, the water co will want to inspect to verify they are deep enough before you fill in the trench, unless you use a contractor off their list.

salemtheteenagecat Mon 08-Aug-16 22:02:12

Thank you! Yeah the sink pipe is copper and goes straight to the main feed!

Do we have to contact the water board first before plumber? Our feed from the street is also copper it just seems to be the one random pipe.

Will look at filters for future use.

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