4 Health Dangers That May Be Lurking in Your Home’s Pipes

Most of us don’t think twice about the water that comes out of the tap in our homes. We assume our drinking water is clean and free of contaminants. But there may be things lurking in your home’s pipes that could put your family’s health at risk.

1. Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionnaire’s Disease is deadly – so deadly that it kills up to 30% of people that come in contact with it. In 2015, the disease was linked with 10 deaths in Flint, Michigan, the infamous city known for its severe water contamination.

The bacteria that creates the disease grows in warm water, and it can be found in bathtubs, showers and hot tubs that aren’t’ drained properly.

Symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fever of 104F or higher
  • Chills

The initial symptoms of the disease can easily be confused with other illnesses, such as the flu. After a few days, other symptoms develop, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough, which may bring up blood or mucus
  • Mental changes, or confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

The disease cannot be contracted from person-to-person contact. Most people contract the illness from inhaling the bacteria.

If you suspect that you have Legionnaire’s Disease, see your doctor right away. Diagnosing and treating the illness early on can help reduce the recovery time and prevent the risk of more serious complications.

2. Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metal toxicity is a concern if you live in a home with copper pipes. Copper is an important nutrient, but at high concentrations, it can be toxic.

Excess stores of iron and copper can cause oxidant damage that may contribute to aging diseases, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and arteriosclerosis.

One study found that people with a high intake of fatty foods and copper lost cognitive function at more than three times the normal rate.

If you have copper or iron pipes, you might consider replacing them or installing pipe lining to reduce your exposure to heavy metals.

3. Viruses and Bacteria

Research has shown that leaking pipes can allow harmful contaminants, like bacteria and viruses, into drinking water.

If there’s a significant drop in pressure in a damaged area of a pipe, the water that surrounds the pipe can actually be sucked in through the hole.

Other studies have found that the material surrounding water pipes typically contains harmful contaminants, like viruses and bacteria from feces. If you have a damaged pipe in your system, there’s a chance (a low one) that these contaminants can be sucked up into your home’s drinking water.

4. Polyvinyl Chloride Leaching

Plastic has been the material of choice for pipes since the 1950s. Plastic pipes are easy to install and economical, and they’re typically made of three materials: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polybutylene (PB) and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride.

One study printed in the Journal of Environmental Engineering found that homes built with PVC pipes before 1977 leached polyvinyl chloride into the drinking water at high levels.

PVC also contains phthalates, which can also leach from plastics. In animal studies, phthalates caused reproductive and liver damage.