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Homeowner Guide: Identifying Lead Plumbing

Lead plumbing can be a serious health hazard in homes, as exposure to lead can cause a variety of health problems, particularly in children and pregnant women. If you suspect that your home may have lead plumbing, it is important to identify it and take steps to address the issue. Here’s how to identify lead plumbing in your home:

  1. Consider the age of your home. If your home was built before 1986, there is an increased chance it has lead plumbing. Prior to that year, lead was a common material used in plumbing pipes and fittings.
  2. Look for visible signs of lead pipes. Lead pipes are typically dull gray in color and may have a rough texture. They are also softer and more malleable than other types of pipes, such as copper, or galvanized. Lead pipes can also be easily scratched with a metal object. If the pipe is covered or wrapped, expose a small area of metal. Use the flat edge of a screwdriver or other tool to scratch through any corrosion that may have built up on the outside of the pipe. If the scraped area is shiny and silver, your service line is likely lead.
  3. Use a magnet to check for lead pipes. A magnet will not stick to lead pipes or copper, but will stick to galvanized pipes. Use a strong magnet and run it along your pipes to see if it sticks.
  4. Test your water for lead. You can purchase a lead testing kit from a hardware store or have your water tested by a professional laboratory.
  5. Check for brass fixtures. Some older brass faucets and valves may contain lead. Look for the letters “AB” stamped on the fixture, which stands for “lead-free” (i.e., contains less than 0.25% lead).
  6. Contact a professional plumber. If you are unsure whether your home has lead plumbing or you need assistance identifying it, contact a licensed plumber. They can perform a thorough inspection of your plumbing system and advise you on the best course of action.

If you do identify lead plumbing in your home, it is important to take steps to address the issue. This may involve replacing the affected pipes and fixtures or installing a water treatment system to remove lead from your water. Contact a licensed plumber or water treatment professional to help you determine the best approach for your situation. By identifying and addressing lead plumbing in your home, you can help protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of lead exposure.