Unhealthy tap water is frequently considered to be caused by faulty municipal water systems, but the pipes in your plumbing system can also have a negative affect on the quality of your drinking water. For instance, your city water supply may test low for lead levels while the water coming from your tap tests high. Following are three conditions that can cause your tap water to be unfit for drinking or cooking.
Although lead is no longer used in the construction of residential plumbing systems, many older homes still have them. Fortunately, the Safe Drinking Water Act of almost 20 years ago stipulates that lead pipes and fixtures are not to be used in the repair and placement of existing plumbing. However, many vintage homes that still have their original plumbing may contain pipes with high levels of lead. If you've fallen in love with a property that was constructed before 1998, have your water professionally tested for lead, and don't ever allow children to drink from the tap if you suspect that your residential plumbing pipes may contain lead.
If you you discover that your plumbing contains lead pipes or components, your best option is to have your home replumbed as soon as possible. Until then, use bottled water for drinking and cooking or invest in a extremely good water filtration system.
Copper pipes are commonly used in residential plumbing systems, and although the body requires trace elements of copper for optimal health, consuming too much can cause adverse health conditions such as damage to the liver and kidneys, and studies have found that it may be a contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Physical indications that your water may contain too much copper are:
- Diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting
- General stomach pain
Unfortunately, water that contains copper levels that are too high for humans to safely consume has no telltale odor or taste. Rust-colored water and stains on laundry are two visual signs that your tap water may contain high levels of copper, but these could also occur as a result of too much iron in the water. Having your water tested for copper is important if you have reason to believe that there may be copper in your drinking water. You can also help minimize your risk of copper exposure through tap water by a process known as flushing, which involves letting cold tap water run for at least 60 seconds before using it for drinking or cooking. You should never use hot tap water for either of these purposes because hot water retains copper more easily than cold. If a recipe calls for the addition of hot water, for instance, use cold tap water and heat it up in the microwave or on the stove top.
Pipes that have small leaks in them can also cause your drinking water to be unfit to drink or to cook with. These leaks can be so minute that you can't really tell by your water pressure that they exist, so be sure to have your water tested if you notice any off odor, colors, or tastes in your tap water. Leaky pipes are more likely to be a problem with lead pipes in older construction, which is just another reason why you should have lead pipes replaced as soon as possible. However, leaks can also occur in plumbing pipes made from other materials. The kind of contamination that they create in your tap water will depend on what's in your ground water. For instance, if you live in an agricultural area, your groundwater may contain high levels of pesticides and fertilizers.
A local plumbing company like A Absolute Plumbing & Heating can provide you with more information on keeping your tap water as clean and safe as possible.