The California Lead-Free Plumbing Law: A Homeowner’s FAQ
When doing any kind of home upgrade project, for better or worse, there are plenty of laws that help guide homeowners in California. I think it’s fair to say, at least in my opinion as a professional plumber, that although some laws can feel tedious, the California lead-free plumbing law is a necessary one.
As you may already know, we now know that it is best to avoid lead pipes—years of use can make many folks sick. The law, like most laws, though, can be a bit confusing for those of you who aren’t lawyers or plumbing professionals. Don’t worry though! I’m here today to provide you with a brief homeowner’s FAQ on the California lead-free plumbing law.
FAQ #1: What Is the California Lead-Free Plumbing Law All About?
California has actually passed several laws in order to try to reduce lead contamination in drinking water. Most notably, laws were passed in 2010 to ensure that no lead-based pipe, fitter, fixture, solder, or flux could be used for the installation or repair of any public water system, or any water system intended for human consumption. Additionally, retailers may not sell pipes, fittings, or fixtures containing lead. All plumbing items must be lead-free.
Small amounts of lead are still allowed in so-called “lead-free” pipes, though. Currently, solder and flux cannot contain more than 0.2% lead, while wetted surfaces of pipes, fittings, and fixtures cannot contain more than 0.25% lead.
FAQ #2: What Negative Health Effects Are Lead Pipes Linked To?
Lead has typically been a very common additive in plumbing materials. However, since the 1980s and the amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act, lead has been deemed a cause for concern when it comes to drinking water. This is because pipes corrode over time and can leach lead into the water.
In children, even low levels of lead exposure have been associated with nervous system damage, impaired height, impaired hearing, learning disabilities, and blood cell disorders.
When water comes into contact with pipes that contain lead, the water has the potential to become contaminated, especially if the pipes are corroded. Lead-contaminated water can have several adverse effects. In children, even low levels of lead exposure have been associated with nervous system damage, impaired height, impaired hearing, learning disabilities, and blood cell disorders.
While low levels of lead certainly have a greater effect on children, at higher levels, lead can cause problems in adults as well. Lead has been associated with cardiovascular problems, impaired kidney function, and reproductive problems. Pregnant women or women hoping to conceive have to be very careful about lead exposure, as lead is redistributed to the developing fetus and is linked to low birth weight, as well as premature birth.
FAQ #3: Who Does the Lead-Free Plumbing Law Apply To?
The lead-free plumbing law applies to anyone who is installing new pipes or repairing old ones in a public water system or in a water system that is intended for human consumption. This includes homeowners, of course, as we all drink water that comes from the pipes in our home.
FAQ #4: What Do Homeowners Need to Know to Comply with the Law?
The good news is that lead service lines are not very common here in California. However, if your home was built prior to 1986 and the plumbing has never been upgraded, there is a chance that your pipes were installed with lead solder.
…if your home was built prior to 1986 and the plumbing has never been upgraded, there is a chance that your pipes were installed with lead solder.
If you are concerned about the levels of lead in your California home’s water, it’s a good idea to have a look at your local water agency’s annual water report and make sure that the lead content does not exceed 15 parts per billion.
If you know or have a hunch that your home’s plumbing has not been replaced in your home since 1986, you’re going to want to find a lab that has been certified with the State Water Resources Control Board’s Environmental Accreditation Program and have them test your tap water.
FAQ #5: How Can I Reduce My Family’s Lead Exposure?
If your test results come back with elevated levels of lead, don’t panic. There are a few things you can do to reduce your lead exposure.
My first piece of advice would be to consider updating the plumbing in your old house. While this can certainly seem like a big task, replacing your pipes has many other benefits than simply reducing the levels of lead in your water. New pipes can increase water pressure, remedy leaks, and improve the color, smell, taste, and quality of your water.
…replacing your pipes has many other benefits than simply reducing the levels of lead in your water. New pipes can increase water pressure, remedy leaks, and improve the color, smell, taste, and quality of your water.
If replacing your pipes seems too daunting for you right now, you can reduce your exposure to lead by installing a water filtration system. Not only will it remove heavy metals like lead from your water, but a water filtration system gets rid of harmful chemicals, like chlorine, that the city puts into the water as well.
Whether you decide to replace your pipes or install a water filtration system, the friendly folks at Bell Brothers would be happy to help you. Not only can they supply you with top-of-the-line lead-free pipes, they can also expertly install them in your home. Plus, they’ve got a great selection of water purification systems and can help you figure out which one is best for your family’s needs.
FAQ# 6: Can I Install New Pipes Myself?
Like I just mentioned above, you’ll need to call up an experienced contractor to install your new pipes. At Bell Brothers, we give our clients a free in-home consultation so that we can assess their pipes and choose the best ones (lead-free, of course) for the job. The best part is, once they’re installed, your home will be in compliance with the California lead-free plumbing law, and your drinking water will be safer and healthier for you and your family.
At Bell Brothers, our trained plumbing professionals would be happy to come have a look at your pipes and replace them if need be, or install a water filtration system to keep your family’s drinking water crisp, cool, and clean. Contact us today to schedule a free in-home consultation.
Wondering how to finance a new plumbing project, new windows, or a new HVAC system? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Manki Kim