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Can Old Steel Plumbing Pipes Be Unhealthy for a Household?

pipes-corrodedOver the last century, many different materials were used to make the plumbing pipes in homes. Today, the most common materials are copper and plastics (PEX, CPVC). But for many decades, the main material used was galvanized steel. If you live in a house that was constructed before 1970 (or even 1980), you may have extensive steel pipes in your household. You may have also heard these pipes pose health risks and other troubles. Is there any truth to this?

Unfortunately, yes.

Fortunately, a licensed plumber can fix this for you.

Galvanized steel pipes

What exactly is “galvanized” steel? It’s steel that’s coated in a zinc solution to help prevent the material from corroding and rusting. Before 1960, this steel was the principal piping material used in homes, and continued in limited use into the 1980s, when copper replaced it. Galvanized steel was a better alternative to lead pipes—but they turned out to have their own set of problems. After enough decades of use, galvanized steel corrodes, and this can create potential health hazards on freshwater pipes.

The troubles with galvanized steel

Putting in galvanized steel was supposed to avoid dangers lead. But the zinc coating on them contains some levels of lead, which slowly enters the water supply over time. As the pipe starts to corrode, larger amounts of lead and other toxins will start to contaminate the water supply. Corrosion is a problem for pipe strength as well, leading the leaks, breaks, low water pressure, clogs, and numerous troubles.

How can I tell if I have galvanized steel pipes in my home?

The age of your home is the biggest indicator. If it’s older than 50 or 60 years and has never had any new plumbing work done, it may have galvanized steel pipes almost exclusively. Check on any exposed pipes and scratch the surface with a screwdriver. If it exposes a silver gray color and a magnet will adhere to it, it’s galvanized steel. (Magnets won’t adhere to copper, and the exposed area will look like the surface of a penny.)

What do I do if I have galvanized steel or suspect I do?

You call on a professional, licensed plumber. (Licensing is important, since licensed plumbers know the current building codes for plumbing.) The plumber can determine the extent of the galvanized steel pipes in your home—and possibly even lead or iron pipes—and what work needs to be done to replace them. You may require a partial repiping or a whole-house repiping. These are big jobs, but plumbers can complete them with minimal disruption to your home. Afterwards, you’ll be glad to have a non-toxic and durable plumbing system.

If you need to contact a plumber in Cincinnati, OH to find out about the condition of the pipes in your household, Ken Neyer is the local contractor to call. We handle plumbing projects of every size, from basic household repairs to complete repiping for homes and commercial buildings. Our plumbers can tell how much repiping you need to have a safe household and a great plumbing system.

Repipe your home with Ken Neyer Plumbing, Inc. We offer professional plumbing and new constructions services to the Greater Cincinnati Area.

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