Is There Lead in the Water Pipes of Your BC Home?

by | Home Protection, Homeowners Insurance | 0 comments


Lead Water Pipes Risks BC

We spend a lot of time discussing water damage from a homeowners’ insurance perspective. We even dive into the health implications, in the context of mold and mildew when excessive moisture has worked its way into the walls and floorboards. However, there is another health concern regarding your home’s plumbing that we want to draw your attention to today – lead.

In Canada, lead was banned from use in water pipes in 1975, although at a provincial level (BC) it snuck under the radar until 1980. In 1989, the BC Plumbing Code restricted the use of lead solder in new plumbing and in repairs to plumbing for drinking water supplies.

Why was lead banned? Its harmful properties are leached into household drinking water. These harmful properties enter the bloodstream and can subsequently cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and may interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

While homes built in BC and Canada after 1975 are typically free of lead, older homes may still contain lead materials. The latter is of particular concern when you consider that lead soldering for pipe repair was not banned in the province until 1989.

If you own a home in BC that was constructed and/or repaired prior to the most recent BC Plumbing Code update regarding lead in 1989, you may need to take action today. Let’s review.

Why Owners of Older BC Homes Should Have their Plumbing Systems Tested for Lead

The Health Risks of Not Doing So Are Too High

We touched on the health risks associated with lead’s presence in drinking water, but unfortunately that was just the tip of the iceberg. Below is a breakdown of health risks by age/gender category.
Health risks of lead in drinking water for pregnant women include (but may not be exclusive to) the following:
  • Reduced growth of the fetus
  • Premature birth
Health risks of lead in drinking water for children include (but may not be exclusive to) the following:
  • Anemia
  • Behavior and learning problems leading to lower IQ
  • Hearing problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
Health risks of lead in drinking water for adults include (but may not be exclusive to) the following:
  • Cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Reproductive problems (in both men and women)

Source: EPA

You May Not Be Able to Obtain Insurance (Landlords)

Health risks alone are enough to incite action. However, there is another reason to have your older home inspected. To date, at least one insurance provider in BC will no longer sell or renew coverage for landlords who rent properties that were constructed prior to 1980 due to the risk of lead poisoning in drinking water. This includes detached homes, townhouses, condominiums, and other multi-residential properties. And given that until 1989 lead solder continued to be used in repairs, landlords may be required to show proof of an acceptable water test result (possibly more) to remain eligible for coverage.

How to Take Action Against Lead in Drinking Water

Have your older home’s plumbing systems inspected to protect against health issues. It may be wise to consider the following:
  • Purchase (and use) a residential water contamination test kit online or from your local home retailer.
  • Inquire with your local BC municipality about free or paid residential water testing resources.
  • Have your water be tested by a qualified laboratory near your property/properties.
Furthermore, if you are the owner of a well that only supplies water to a private household you are responsible for testing your water to determine if it is safe (i.e. lead free) for consumption. In this case, it may be the well and not a pipe that is to blame. For well-water concerns, samples should be sent to a qualified laboratory in BC for testing.

Fortunately, the risk of lead poisoning in residential drinking water gets lower with renovations and retrofits that come with each passing decade since the Canada-wide (and BC) ban. That said, it’s better to offer household occupants peace of mind that you’ve done your due diligence.

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