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There are no lead water mains in use within our region. When drinking water leaves our treatment works it is free from lead.
However, there may be lead pipework from the water main into and within your home, particularly if it was built before 1970. Other pipes such as galvanised iron can also release lead into the water.
Therefore, on the journey to your tap, drinking water may pick up lead as the water comes into contact with these sources.
As lead is a well established toxic substance, it is sensible to consume as little lead as possible particularly if you are pregnant or in the case of young children and bottle fed babies because the young are the most at risk.
To protect the health of the young, there are strict regulations governing the maximum amount of lead allowed in drinking water - 10 μg/l (micrograms per litre or parts per billion).
It is unusual for water from taps in our region to exceed this limit but where we find levels in excess of the regulatory standard we will investigate the cause.
A frequently asked question regarding lead and health is as follows: “I’ve been drinking water from the tap for years, how will it have affected me?”
We would advise, that according to the World Health Organisation, the majority of lead is ingested into the body from sources other than drinking water.
Nevertheless, the UK government body states the following: “It is very unlikely that the general population will be exposed to a level of lead high enough to cause adverse health effects.”
When was your house built?
First it is worth finding out when your home was built.
If it was built:
• from 1985 onwards there shouldn't be lead present in your plumbing system
• between 1970 and 1985 it is unlikely you will have lead pipes but lead based solder may have been used to join the copper pipes
• before 1970 you may have lead pipes in your plumbing system.
Checking for external lead pipes
To check the pipes outside your property, open the external stop tap cover (most often in the street) and examine the visible pipes.
In some cases you may find it difficult to access this stop tap, or may not know where it is located. If so, please contact us to arrange an inspection.
Checking for internal lead pipes
The best place to check for lead pipes is where the water pipe enters your home - this is usually the internal stop tap which may be under the kitchen sink, behind cupboards in the kitchen or under the stairs.
If you can see the pipes, lead is generally thicker than other metallic pipe materials and is also easier to scratch using a coin, for example.
Unpainted lead pipes look dull grey in colour and are also soft - if you gently scrape the pipe you will see shiny, silver coloured metal.
Lead pipes are generally thicker than copper or plastic and usually have swollen joints where they meet other pipes.
If you tap a lead pipe it will create a 'dull' sound rather than the clear ringing sound heard from copper or iron pipes.
If you are unsure, you could ask a plumber to carry out this check for you.
TOP TIP: For permanent peace of mind, we would advise that all the lead pipework in your property is replaced together with any lead pipework form the water main to your home.
We would encourage you to consider replacing any internal lead plumbing and advise you to obtain several quotations from reputable and approved plumbers.
Your plumber should be able to advise you further if you need more detail on plumbing materials or Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations.
If you want to replace your service pipe,
to arrange for a free water quality sample to be taken from your kitchen tap to test the level of lead.
We are recognised for having a long standing and generous lead strategy which is improved continuously to reduce consumers' exposure to lead.
For example, we have a programme of inspections for schools which will identify lead pipework from the water main. We are working closely with local authorities and school headteachers where inspections identify unsuitable services to ensure they are replaced.
If you identify lead pipes in your home or have concerns that your water may contain elevated levels of lead,
and we will arrange to take a sample of the water from your kitchen tap and test it for you for free.
TOP TIP: The best way to reduce lead in your water is to remove any lead pipework within your home or better still from your property boundary.
In some areas we have adjusted the way we treat water to cause an internal lining to form in lead pipes. This helps to reduce the amount of lead that is directly in contact with water.
This will only reduce lead pick up and will not completely prevent it. The only way to stop lead from affecting your drinking water is to remove or replace the lead pipe.
Properties where there are no lead pipes or where lead pipes have been replaced already will not be affected by this adjustment to the way we treat water.
If you have lead pipes, you can reduce the levels of lead in the water you use with these simple tips: