Lead in 50 year-old plumbing solder?

In removing a gate value for the hose in my garage this morning I had
to heat one of the copper joints to remove it and I noticed how easily
the solder melted and flowed. So I wonder if there is some amount of
lead in it.
My house was built in 1953 and my guess is that this pipe joint is
original, so...
1) Did plumbing solder in 1953 contain lead?
2) Can I test some of the solder blobs easily?
3) Should I consider replacing all of the pipes in my house? (Note: I
have a small ranch house with easy access to all of the plumbing; this
would not be a difficult job for me.)
Reply to
Plumbing solder was 50% lead 50% tin I wouldn't repalce anything that wasn't broken, but as you make repairs use the new lead free solder, it's a bit different but it works.
Reply to
(with possible editing):
Not certain if there is a simple test.
Speaking for myself, I wouldn't bother for two reasons:
1. The likelihood of significant exposure to lead is tiny. Lead was used in solder for years and it didn't appear to have any significant effect on life span.
2. The exposure to lead via plumbing is tiny - it can be only at the joints and if those were done by a professional, there is damn little lead in contact with the water.
Reply to
L. M. Rappaport
You can send a vial of water out for testing, or use a testing kit with a Q-tip rubbed on the solder.
But, rather than changing all your pipes, you can just install a water filter in your kitchen which will trap up to 99% of it Just running your tap for 2 minutes in the morning will clear out any lead that leached overnight, too.
I grew up in a house with lead solder. Just think, I'd probably be a genius right now were it not for the lead that I consumed ;)
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Reply to
Buck Turgidson
wrote in message
Yes, usually 50% lead solder. Good stuff.
Sure, but why bother. l It has lead.
Of course not. My last house had a lead pipe as the main water line from the street. Tens of thousands of houses built in the 1940's had lead pipes. We all survived. If you are paranoid about it, it is the water sitting for a time over lead that potentially contaminates it. Flush a toilet or two and the water sitting in the pipes overnight is gone and you have good water again.
Reply to
Edwin Pawlowski
My house built in 1983 had lead in the plumbing, subjecting us to being a bunch of "lab rats " for the local water district and health department.
Very very well-versed in the subject. Essentially, what most everyone has told you is true.
You test the water, not the solder. You test first "flush" -- meaning the first dribbles of water out of the pipe and then let it run (forget how long) and collect a second sample.
Over time, if you have hard water, the deposits USUALLY seal off the lead and very little, if any, escapes into the actual water. Soft water, well another story. If I remember correctly, hot water taps pose more of a problem.
Finally, another poster was close, but, sort of deadly wrong when they said flush a couple of toilets....Basically let the water run out of any pipe -- the protocol says up to 10 minutes -- that you are going to consume water from. Flushing a toilet is not going to drain the water that has been sitting in that cold water line...
Hey, how about this, take a look at what the experts say :>)
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Reply to
1- Almost all homes with copper pipes used solder containing a 50/50 mix of tin and lead that have been built up to the last few years.
2- why worry about the solder blobs. YOu can be sure they are the lead type the same as the other joints in your house.
3- replace all the pipes in the house. Go with the plastic pipes . Then someone will decide something will come out of the plastic and you will have to replace those pipes.
If the lead in the pipes had been very bad for us, most anyone that lived in a house built in the last 50 years would have been affected. I doubt that anyone can prove the lead has caused any problems.
Too many people worry about too many small things. They do not seem to worry about the 40,000 or so killed in the US by cars each year.
If you do replace the valve use some of the BAD old 50/50 mix and not the newer no stick junk.
Reply to
Ralph Mowery
I largely agree with most of the previous, with one caveat- lead is a serious matter. The EPA considers it the no. 1 environmental health threat. Especially, of course, in the case of pregnant women/ young children. It is cumulative, causes mental deficits in very small amounts, organ problems in larger amounts. That said, you are probably fine with the advice given, but go ahead and have water tested if you like. In many older cities, there really is a problem- with lead pipe being the connection from street to house. Not everyone knows to filter/ or simply flush out line in AM- which can take several minutes(in the case above, less if just flushing out lead-soldered domestic copper pipes). Depending on your plumbing setup, you can use the water to fill your washer, if you don't want to waste it. You'd still have run some out the kitchen faucet, of course. Lead levels can be much higher in hot water- I'd say don't use it for cooking or drinking.
Reply to
.... snip, snip ... .... response
My thought here is to just run enough water so that the pipe between the faucet and the water supply entrance to the house is emptied out. In my kitchen, I figure this to be about 2 quarts. At least the way my house is plumbed, and I suspect others as well, I would think that flushing the toilet would not help bring a fresh water supply to my kitchen faucet. Now, there is one other issue: As a plumber friend of mine once suggested, in some places the old city supply lines expose the water supply to your house to lead, in which case my perhaps superstitious practice of running out 2 qt. of water in the morning wouldn't much matter :-}
Reply to
Yes, thanks Sev.
I appreciate everyone's input on this, but the "hey, I didn't die because of it" argument is bad. Lots of things that may not affect your lifespan at all can seriously affect your brain, muscles, nerves, reproduction, etc.
So we should go with what we know. I am going to test my water as was suggested (which is a good idea whether I have leaded solder or not) and if the lead level is considered safe then I'll have no worries.
Thanks everyone.
Reply to
I am almost eighty; and, we grew up with lead paint on our cribs, Had asbestos covering strapped on all the steam pipes in the basement, played with mercury on pennies in chemistry class and somehow survived all these perils.
Don't "sweat" out the pipes ( pun intended !).
Reply to
Don't bother see below.
Absolutely not. Doing so is likely to cause more problems than it fixes. The lead in the pipes is likely adding only extremely little. Disturbing it and maybe exposing fresh lead would allow more lead into your water.
If you are worried, have your water tested. Remember to let the water run some before catching it. Likely the faucets have lead parts in them and they will likely be greater sources of lead than the pipes.
Reply to
Joseph Meehan
The problem with lead in water pipe joints is due to water sitting in the pipes. That concentrates the lead in the water. In older homes, it is always prudent to run the tap for about 30 seconds in the moring before taking any water for making coffee or other consumption.
Don't bother testing. Your pipes were joined with lead/tin solder. Since you have a small ranch and accessible pipes, along with the feeling you can do this type of work, here's my recommendation: Replace most of the plumbing, but while you are at it, start at the house side of the meter and go up to 3/4 inch pipe for at least the main run across the house. This will make a big difference in many things. Your hose in the back yard will now water the garden in half the time it used to take, and when someone is taking a shower, you can flush the toilet as many times as you like without giving them a sudden cold surprise. That larger diameter for the main trunk means no sudden loss of pressure when multiple faucets are opened at the same time.
I did this exact job in a small ranch house I own and it took me about 4 or 5 hours and maybe a couple hundred dollars. I did not replace all of the branches. Just the ones that went to fixtures that might be used for drawing drinking water. No need to worry about a miniscule amount of potential lead in the shower or laundry lines. Piece of cake.
Reply to
Mys Terry
Yes. In 1953 50% lead, 50% tin was the typical solder. I wouldn't panic though. The concern is how much, if any lead is in the water you draw from your system today and in the future.
Testing the water is the only way to know this and it's not difficult to do. Most good hardware stores, and many internet sites have test kits that can be sent off to a lab for quantification. My preference would be to find a lab that can do AA (atomic absorption spectroscopy).
There are several things to consider though. Over time insoluble salts of lead will in all likelihood form over the lead containing solder that serve to passivate the solder and render it inaccessible. Certainly in 53 years this has occurred.
Unless you have acid water, (low pH, or pH values much less than 7) it is unlikely that much lead is going to dissolve and be in your water.
Remember the chemist's mantra, 'the dose is the poison', or more correctly:
"All things are poison and nothing is without poison. Solely the dose determines that a thing is without poison." --Paracelsus
In our politically correct world many are running from things that are in fact not that dangerous. The problem is that those running don't understand what the real danger is and what they are running from.
Lead, in water will form a
Reply to
1 Yes 2 Yes 3 No. There is no reason to, especially after 50 years. BTW, there never was a reason, just don't use water through the hot water system to cook.
Reply to
George E. Cawthon
The first couple of decades of my life I spent living in an environment that had lead in the water pipes, mercury in the antibiotics, asbestos in almost everything (I lived in Quebec where asbestos was a major export) etc, etc.
Now kids are raised in clean houses protected from diseases, toxins, heavy metals etc. These same kids are suffering from epidemic levels of asthma, autism, allergies etc.
Reply to
Michael Daly
Oh, *NO*! You must be demented! Yes, so did I for more than a couple of decades.
Still there, though now they're blaming mercury and antibiotics for autism and whatever ails the masses think they have.
...even the gound! *horrors!*
Northern NY too, until they closed all the mines and turned it into a wasteland.
Go figure. What happens when a spider bites one of the wussies?
Reply to
Yes, and if it's not acidic, sleep well. If it's acidic bitch to your water supplier. If it's your well, fix it.
Reply to
Not quite. Mercury, in thiomerisol, is a preservative in vaccines (or it used to be) and the autism rate increased considerably since it was used. There have not been scientific test, but anecdotal evidence points to it as one in 162 children is autistic to some extent. China had virtually no autism until they started using US made vaccines with it.
Reply to
Edwin Pawlowski

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