History of Lead in Plumbing
- Plumbing (Plumb'ing\ n.)
- The art of casting and working in lead, and applying it to building purposes; especially, the business of furnishing, fitting ,and repairing pipes for conducting water, sewage, etc.
- The lead or iron pipes, and other apparatus, used in conveying water, sewage, etc., in a building. "plumbing." Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, MICRA, Inc.
While many definitions of plumbing exist, the one above illustrates the long established link between lead and plumbing. For thousands of years, mankind has used lead or lead-based components as the cornerstones of plumbing systems large and small. Even the word "plumbing" itself is derived from the Latin word for lead "plumbum", which gives us the atomic symbol for lead (Pb).
Why has lead been so instrumental in plumbing? When did it get its start in plumbing, and how?
Why Use Lead?
From man’s earliest civilizations, such as the Roman, to our modern times today, the plumbing trade has used and recognized the benefits of lead. Its high malleability and relatively low melting point have made lead ideal for metal working and crafting, and lead’s high resistance to corrosion has made it popular for use in plumbing. In addition, when added to other metals, lead permits lead-based alloys to retain much of their original properties that allow the machining of plumbing components to be done with greater ease and lower cost.
The Government's Regulation of Lead?
The Federal Government in 1974 passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, mandating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee the states, localities and water suppliers who implement those standards. These standards included closer regulation of Lead Content in drinking water.
The Lead Free Timeline to the left tracks the development of various legislative statutes, both at the Federal and State level, to foster the use of Lead Free* products in potable water lines.