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Is Your Water Being Supplied by Harmful Lead Pipes?


68% of UK homeowners don’t know if the water being supplied to their home is travelling through harmful lead pipes.

Watersafe, the UK register of approved plumbers, conducted a survey made up of 2,000 homeowners where it was found that the majority were unaware if the water they use for drinking, cooking and washing up is supplied through lead water pipes that could prove harmful.

Consuming water that’s travelled through lead water pipes can cause lead to build-up in the body and prove harmful. This is especially concerning for children and babies as it can stunt their development.

How do I Know if my Home has Lead Water Pipes?

Lead has been banned from plumbing for over 25 years so houses built before then are the most likely to have lead pipes. To find out the material, homeowners are being encouraged to take a ‘scratch test’ on the pipes supplying water.

What is a Scratch Test?

You can find out what material your water pipes (normally found in a kitchen cupboard or under the stairs) are made from by scratching them with a coin, key or screwdriver. The colour that’s revealed will help you to decipher the material.

Once you’ve scratched the pipe, use the table below to find out the materia

Colour of Scraped Area Material
Shiny and silver Lead
Copper (like a penny) Copper
Dull Grey Galvanised steel

Should you find that your pipes are made of lead then contact your water supplier who will be able to test the levels of lead in the drinking water. When it comes to replacing the pipes only a qualified engineer should carry out the work.

What did Watersafe say?

Watersafe Director, Julie Spinks said: “We’re asking property owners to do one thing during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: check your homes and business premises for lead water pipes, especially if you have an older property.

“It’s quite simple, find the water pipe where it enters your home, which is usually in a kitchen cupboard or under the stairs. Lead pipes are normally dull grey and soft and if you scrape the surface gently with a coin you’ll see shiny silver-coloured metal underneath. It’s quite distinct from copper or plastic.”

Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Between October 21st-27th, the World Health Organisation will be raising awareness of the potential health risks lead can bring through Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

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