Some older houses in the UK may have lead piping in the plumbing system, which could cause potentially harmful levels of toxins to be present in tap water. There have been regulations in place since 1970 which ban the use of lead pipes for water, but up to a third of UK properties are still believed to be at risk from lead plumbing.
Lead can dissolve in drinking water, which then builds up in the body. Over time, this can cause lead poisoning, resulting in health problems. Pregnant women and young children are especially at risk if they drink water from a contaminated supply. This is because children absorb more lead than adults, due to their growing bones and other organs.
In children, the main symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pains, and vomiting. Lead poisoning may also cause hearing loss and cognitive delay or learning difficulties. The condition can also affect adults, with similar symptoms, and headaches, joint pain, high blood pressure, memory loss, and risk of miscarriage in women.
Even if your house does not have lead pipes inside, there is still a chance that the pipe which connects to the main water supply in the street is lead, particularly if it is an older property. In newer homes, copper pipes may still have lead solder applied around the joints by unqualified plumbers, as it is a cheaper option.
If you have any concerns about lead piping in or around your property, you should contact your water company, who will test the levels of lead in the water. In the long term, lead pipes in your home should be replaced with plastic or copper ones. For extra peace of mind, you could apply filters to your tap water which will make it pure and safe to drink.
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