Safety Concerns

Changing products and emerging health and safety issues make designing piping systems a continuing challenge. Here are some key issues that should inform design and construction of piping systems, as well as summaries of recent news and research.

Leaching takes place when clean water is contaminated as it comes into contact with the chemicals in piping installations. The threat level of leaching is significantly based on the piping material installed. The use of plastic piping materials for residential and commercial drinking water, as well as concerns regarding the presence of substances potentially leaching into drinking water from such materials, are increasing worldwide.

Overview: Leaching Concerns

Chemical interactions between water and piping materials — typically oxidation — and the principles of osmosis mean all piping materials leach substances into water to some degree. Some materials are far safer than others, however. For example, lead pipes and fittings have emerged as a serious public health threat in homes, schools, and businesses with aging plumbing. The leaching impacts of commonly used materials such as plastic and copper are less understood. Here’s an overview based on current research:
  • Lead Leaching – Lead is an established neurotoxin and dangerous to human health; prolonged exposure can lead to a range of serious conditions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, no level of lead exposure is safe. Water crises in communities across the country show the impacts of lead contamination and explain why recent infrastructure investments seek to replace lead with safer piping materials.
  • Plastic Leaching – Research into leaching from plastic pipes has found scores of chemicals that pass into drinking water from plastic piping, fittings, and the solvents/glues used to bind them. These substances — including carcinogens such as benzene — leach from pipe walls over time, especially plumbing exposed to heat or hot water. Disinfectants used by water companies also can interact with plastic pipes, producing secondary chemicals.
  • Copper Leaching – Copper pipes leach traces of copper at levels generally regarded as safe. At low levels …

4 Ways Contaminants Penetrate a Building’s Water Supply

4 Ways Contaminants Penetrate a Building’s Water Supply In North America, the benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) hydrocarbon group represents a main source of groundwater contamination. Its ability to permeate many common piping materials makes it especially difficult to protect against, which can be concerning considering BTEX is an established carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency has regulated benzene in drinking water to 5 parts-per-billion because of its link to cancer.    What Materials are Affected? Many common, plastic piping materials are at risk of permeation by BTEX and other chemicals. These materials should not be installed in areas where permeation is… more

New Video Highlights Health Risks Associated with Piping Materials

New Video Highlights Health Risks Associated with Piping Materials Plastic piping is a cheap option for drinking water systems. But does value engineering justify taking a health risk? While there are many different types of plastic pipes used today, they are all unnatural and made from a complicated blend of chemicals.   Watch the video below to learn more or click here… more

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