PVC pipes: bringing toxic lead to drinking water

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We all expect our drinking water to be clean and safe, but a new article reveals that PVC drinking water pipes may be carrying an unwanted contaminant into our precious drinking water: toxic lead.  Yes, the very same lead that can permanently damage the brain.


A giant stack of PVC pipes. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/judeanpeoplesfront/


The story, reported in Plastics News, found that lead is the primary stabilizer used in PVC piping in China, accounting for a whopping 91% of PVC pipes made in China.  91%! The article revealed that  lead is still widely used in vinyl pipes, including those used in drinking water, even though China banned the use of lead in PVC pipe 7 years ago.  30% of China’s PVC pipe is used in water supplies (not including drainage) in China.

Lead in PVC Pipes Around the World

China unfortunately isn’t alone here, as this continues to be a widespread problem across the world, even though the vinyl industry likes to argue that is a thing of the past, just like how they say vinyl chloride probelms are things of the past (what a joke that is).  The article reports that:

Lead is used in 95 percent of PVC pipe in India, 86 percent in the Middle East and Africa, and 61 percent in South America, according to figures from German stabilizer maker Baerlocher GmbH, presented at the conference.

In Europe, by contrast, 29 percent of all PVC pipe systems use lead, while in North America, the figure is less than 1 percent, because nearly 100 percent of vinyl pipe systems use tin as a stabilizers, Baerlocher said.”

Is Lead-Laden PVC Pipe Being Imported Into the United States?

Which leaves me to wonder, is any of this lead-laden PVC pipe being imported into the United States, from China, India, the Middle East, Africa, or South America?  How much?  Where from? How can consumers find out?

Are American children drinking out of PVC pipes that leach lead?  Why isn’t the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) looking into this?  Hundreds of thousands of American children already suffer from childhood lead poisoning.

Even if not a single lead-laden PVC pipe is making its way to the US, why should children and families in China, the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe have to drink water out of piping laden with this unnecessary toxic heavy metal?

Vinyl Industry Replacing Lead With Risky Organotins

It’s not just the lead in PVC pipes we’re worried about though.  Studies have also shown that organotins, which are being used to replace lead here in the US, can also leach into water, and studies are showing these chemicals are also toxic to our health, as they have been linked to a variety of health problems including obesity.

It’s a toxic shell game the chemical industry has been playing, and just another example of how vinyl is a fundamentally poison plastic.

The best solution is to pursue alternative materials that don’t use these toxic additives in the first place, whether it be the lead or toxic organotins the vinyl petrochemical industry is transitioning to.    It’s the right thing to do for our children’s health and development.

Why use an unnecessary toxic plastic when safer materials are available? Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been drinking out of too much lead-laden PVC pipe to wise up.

  • afisher

    Just read a ALEC paper that is actually promoting this material to upgrade all of the water systems in the USA. They promote PVC using the standard “open market” claim…time to be cautious. http://www.scribd.com/doc/169376875/Lowering-Cost-in-Water-Infrastructure-through-Procurement-Reform-A-Strategy-for-State-Governments

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  • Juan Live

    is there a solution? can u “fix” water using charcoal filters?

  • Sugarsail1

    chemophobes…lol