You may not have paid too much attention to the build of your water pipes. Most people don’t. This is why many of these ancient galvanized pipes remain unchanged for decades.

This can pose a serious health risk to you.

Our water supply from the municipality goes through proper water filtration. However, this clean water might pick up contaminants from your water pipe itself as it reaches your taps.

This is why it is important to learn about the problems associated with galvanized pipes and whether it is safe for your drinking water.

Let’s get right to it!

Table of Contents

Plumbing Materials – A Brief History

The history of plumbing goes back to the ancient Roman era. That’s right! Water distribution pipes have been around for a very long time now. But back then, the most commonly used material for these pipes was lead. The use of lead continued right up until 1920.

However, once the dangers of lead poisoning were recognized, the industry started looking for alternatives. Therefore, in the years between 1930 to 1960, galvanized steel pipes became a common choice for water pipes. This shift was also due to the low manufacturing costs that came with using galvanized steel.

But as time and technology progressed, people began realizing that galvanized steel, too, had its fair share of problems. These flaws created the need for a new alternative to be introduced to the market.

What are Galvanized Pipes?

Galvanized steel refers to steel that has been coated in a zinc solution to prevent any corrosion. Typically, the pipes are galvanized using a hot-dip method, in which the pipes are dipped into a molten hot zinc bath. This was the primary material of choice for all residential plumbing systems. These days this material has been replaced by copper.

How to Know if My Pipes are Galvanized?

You may have moved into an older building or simply not paid too much attention to your water pipes. How can you know whether or not your pipes are made from galvanized steel? Lucky for you, you can identify them simply by sight!

Galvanized steel is gray in appearance. If your pipes are made from copper, they should sport a reddish or orange color, whereas galvanized steel should be similar to nickel in color. This is only when it is installed, though, over time, it can appear much duller.

Since this material is prone to corrosion after some time, you can also check the water output of these pipes. Rusty-colored water, stained plumbing parts are both signs that your pipes are galvanized.

If these signs are not enough, then you can consult with a plumber. Galvanized steel is no longer in use for drinking water pipes. Therefore, if you suspect your pipes are still made from this material, then you should immediately get them replaced.

Problems with Galvanized Pipes for Drinking Water

Image Source: Click Here

The shift to copper happened as galvanized pipes raised many health concerns. As your drinking water passes through these pipes, ingesting these impurities was a prime concern. The following are the main problems associated with drinking water.

Lead Contamination

When these pipes are dipped in hot zinc for galvanizing, it should be noted that naturally occurring zinc is not pure. This means that the pipe is susceptible to added impurities like lead.

Additionally, if there has been any corrosion, then there is a chance that bits of lead have been trapped in these pipes. This lead can leak into your drinking water and cause anemia and fatigue. It can also aggravate kidney and brain damage.

Lower Water Pressure

Galvanized water pipes are prone to restrictions on the waterline. This can result in low water pressure throughout your house.

Discolored Water Supply

Since these pipes can corrode with time, they are bound to leak iron into your water supply. This iron will cause your water supply to be discolored. You can notice this via stains on your porcelain as well.

Uneven Water Distribution

Similar to the lower water pressure, these pipes could affect your water distribution. This is because the corrosion can build up in different ways. When water flows through these piles, you are likely to experience uneven water distribution.

Possible Leaks

The corrosion will ultimately cause your pipes to rust through completely. This will eventually cause leakage of water in your household. Leaks that go unnoticed can have huge damages to your property

Health Risks of Galvanized Pipes for Drinking Water

The following are the health risks commonly associated with using galvanized pipes for your drinking water supply:

Flu-like Symptoms

Consumption of lead is very dangerous for human beings. It can lead to muscle aches, high fever, or chills. These symptoms depend on the level of lead present in your drinking water. Make sure you perform proper testing for your drinking water if you suspect that your pipes are giving you these symptoms.

Risking Multiple Diseases

Drinking water from these worn-out pipes for an extended period of time can cause you to become more susceptible to kidney, bone, and lung diseases. Make sure your water supply has a balanced pH and perform annual tests to keep yourself safe.

Increased Blood Pressure

Typically the primary causes of blood pressure are stress, poor diet, and an inactive lifestyle. However, continuously drinking lead infested water can increase your blood pressure as well. If you aren’t prone to high blood pressure but have been receiving higher readings lately, then you might want to look into testing your drinking water.

Verdict- Is Galvanized Pipe Safe for Drinking Water?

Galvanized pipes were used extensively for decades across residential as well as commercial buildings. This is why it is still common to find that some of these pipes have never been changed. However, with galvanized pipes, there is a high risk of lead contamination as well as corrosion leaking into your drinking water. The verdict is that galvanized pipes are not at all safe for drinking water, and you should switch to newer copper pipes as soon as possible.

(Last Updated on June 16, 2020 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.