Galvanized Pipes And The Danger Of Lead Poisoning In Children

If you are renovating or living in a home built before 1960, it may be plumbed with galvanized iron pipes. Since these pipes can last up to 100 years, it is not uncommon to find historic homes that still have this type of plumbing. Parents always worry about lead paint in older homes, but galvanized pipes can be an even more dangerous source of lead.

What are Galvanized Pipes?

Galvanized iron is steel covered with an internal and external layer of zinc. The zinc was intended to protect the pipes from corrosion; however, the zinc erodes over time and the pipes start to corrode inside.

How Do You Know If Your Home Has Galvanized Pipes?

To determine the type of pipes you have in your home, find the spot where the piping enters the house. Scratch the pipe to see what is underneath the surface. Copper piping will show a copper color. Plastic is white and is usually joined to the water supply with a clamp. Galvanized steel is a silver-gray when scratched, and has threads where it joins the water supply.

How Do Galvanized Pipes Cause Lead Problems?

Lead can accumulate for decades in the corroded iron inside the pipes. How much lead is released into the water supply varies, but children absorb about 70% of the lead they are exposed to, so no amount of lead is safe for children. If galvanized pipes are exposed to some sort of disturbance, such as an earth tremor or water hammer from service line work, large amounts of lead can be released.

What Can Lead Do To Your Child?

Lead poisoning in children often has no symptoms and is not detected. Exposure to toxic levels of lead can lead to slow growth, learning disabilities, malformed bones and behavioral problems. Very high lead levels in children have been known to cause comas, seizures and even death.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Child from Lead Poisoning?

If you own your home, you should have a qualified plumber replace all interior and service line plumbing that has galvanized piping. If you rent, check with your local building authorities for what your options are. If plumbing replacement is not an option, there are filtering systems that remove most lead from your water and make it safe to drink. Talk to your plumber about installing a whole-house system or a smaller filtration device for only your drinking water.

Galvanized steel pipes are a health hazard to all residents of the home, but especially to children, due to the lead content. Because children absorb large amounts of lead, it can lead to serious health problems. Contact a plumber like RK Knight Plumbing to find out if you have galvanized steel pipes and find out what your options are.