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
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.)
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.
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
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 ;)
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
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
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 :>)
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.
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
.... snip, snip
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
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 :-}
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,
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.
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
Don't "sweat" out the pipes ( pun intended !).
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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
(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.
Oh, *NO*! You must be demented! Yes, so did I for more than a couple of
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
Go figure. What happens when a spider bites one of the wussies?
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.