October 18, 2019

UK Water Authorities advise the Public to Identify Toxic Lead pipes in Homes using Dangerous Scratch Test

Some of the UK Water Authorities who recommend the Toxic Scratch Test:

  1. Watersafe
  2. Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering
  3. United Utilities
  4. Water Regulations Advisory Scheme
  5. Water UK
  6. Severn Trent
  7. Thames Water
  8. Drinking Water Inspectorate

The Drinking Water Inspectorate refer to themselves as the ‘Guardians of drinking water quality’ and that might be the case but they do not seem to be guardians of public health. The drinking water inspectorate like the other organisations listed here recommend the public scratch toxic lead pipes with no due regard for public safety.

Old Lead Pipe (credit: wras)

No Personal Protective Equipment Advised by Water Authorities

The Drinking Water Inspectorate and the other organisations recommending the public scratch old paint from old pipes do not advise the use of any essential Personal Protective Equipment. These organisations don’t advise on safety precautions in regard to the removal of lead dust/paint nor do they recommend the intervention of a plumbing professional – if they do, it seems to be an after-thought:

Drinking Water Inspectorate

Severn Trent water authority advise the public find and identify lead pipes by scraping or scratching with a coin – like Watersafe they use an online video to show the public how discern whether the pipe is lead or copper.

The Risks

Public Health England state that exposure to lead occurs primarily through drinking water and food but soil and dust in the air are also a problem. Public Health England say that old lead-based paint may also lead to exposure, especially to young children who may eat or mouth it. Public Health England suggest young children may exhibit exploratory hand-to-mouth behaviour with non-food items like dust or flakes of paint – even ingesting them.

World Health Organisation
International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2019

Although ingestion is the main route of exposure to lead for the general public, inhalation is a major route of exposure with between 30-50% of inhaled lead is deposited in the lungs, with smaller particles having higher deposition and absorption rates. Flaking or chipped leaded paint which is generated by the ‘scratch test’ advised by water authorities can have concentrations of up to 1-5 mg/cm2. Public Health England 2 warn incautious removal of paint can result in high localised concentrations of lead in indoor air.

It is for this reason that water authority advice to scratch an old pipe in the home, which is highly likely to be painted with old paint containing lead, is twice the hazard. This is indeed toxic and dangerous advice that water authorities are prescribing to the general public.

Children are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead on the nervous system as their brains are still developing. Children exposed to lead during the first few years of life may have a lower IQ, behavioural problems or nerve damage (Public Health England 2).

World Health Organisation are registered with the World Health Organisation for ‘International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2019’ and it is our aim to lobby water authorities like Watersafe and Trent Water to remove their videos from U Tube and the internet, and join professional plumbers in protecting the health of the public.