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How does lead get into drinking water?

Occasionally lead occurs naturally in groundwater however, this is a rare situation in the UK and lead is not present in the water within our wider public water supply network.

However before 1970, many smaller water pipes were made from lead. Although lead pipes have not been permitted for this purpose for four decades, in older properties it remains possible that part, or all, of the underground service pipe connecting the water main in the street to your kitchen tap may be made from lead. It is also possible that some original lead plumbing remains within older properties especially if the kitchen has not been modernised.

In hard water areas the scale that forms on the inside of pipes protects against the dissolution of lead from the pipe into the water. However in soft upland water supply areas there is a greater likelihood of lead from lead pipes being present in the water. Where this risk exists, water companies treat the water with orthophosphate and this reduces the problem significantly. None the less, particles of lead may build up in these older pipes and intermittently appear in tap water. Read more »

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Is lead harmful?

The health risks relate to the way lead can build up in the body. Those at particular risk are infants and children because lead can have an adverse impact on mental development. Lead may also be factor in behavioural problems. Worldwide it is recommended that human exposure to lead is kept to a minimum and lead is therefore controlled in air, soil, food and water. A full report on the the health effects of lead can be found on the World Health Organisation website.

Water Contamination

Lead is a toxic metal and can build up in the body, accumulating in the skeleton. Children up to 6 years of age and pregnant women are the most susceptible to any adverse health effects from the accumulation of lead. These health effects include interference with the calcium metabolism and central nervous system.

Low Water Pressure

No matter what the pressure is in the mains network, your lead water supply pipe may be restricting the flow of water to your property. The maximum amount of water your supply pipe can carry will be effected by its internal diameter. This will appear to you as poor pressure, leaks from old lead water supply pipes or fittings will also reduce the water pressure.

Lead Testing Kit
  • Lead contaminated water
  • Poor water pressure
  • Poor flow to the property
  • Repeat leaks on the water supply pipe

How do I know if my property has a lead water supply pipe?

Look at the pipe where it enters your home. This can often be found by your internal stop tap - try looking under the kitchen sink. If the incoming pipe is not blue plastic it will be lead, iron or black poly. Scratch the surface with a knife and if it is lead you will see the shiny silvery coloured metal underneath. If you are still unsure about any of the above, CONTACT US - We are here to help.

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