Warning: Copper Pipes Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Although copper is a mineral that the body needs to store and metabolize iron, exposure to too much metallic copper can be harmful to your and your family's health. Once widely used in the plumbing industry, as copper pipes age and corrode, they can leach copper, contaminating your home's drinking water. While your body needs the proper balance of this nutrient mineral to maintain health, over-exposure to this essential trace element can disrupt the body's metabolic processes and cause health problems. Therefore, replacing the copper plumbing in your home with plastic piping not only upgrades your plumbing system, but the investment may be better for your health.

Adverse Health Effects

Copper in the diet has many beneficial health effects, but ingesting excess levels of copper through drinking water can cause both temporary and chronic health issues.

Potential health effects of short-term over-exposure to copper:

  • Stomach cramps and pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea (with bloody stool)

  • Fatigue

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Jaundice (a symptom of liver toxicity)

  • Muscle aches and weakness

Potential health effects of long-term over-exposure to copper:

  • Anemia (resulting from the destruction of red blood cells)

  • Convulsions

  • Liver damage

  • Kidney failure

  • Death if copper poisoning is severe

Although it is unknown at this time whether excessive exposure to copper can cause cancer in humans, the findings of studies conducted in animals suggest a link between copper and Alzheimer's disease. Exposure to copper may have an effect on memory by impairing the removal of certain proteins in the brain that form the plaques which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

CPVC Plumbing as an Alternative

If you're concerned about the potential health issues of the copper pipes and brass fittings in your household, switching to CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipes and fittings offers a safer alternative. Signs that the copper pipes in your home are corroding include bluish-green stains on your sinks and tub and tap water that is bluish-green in color.

Besides eliminating the worry of copper exposure from water pipes, CPVC is a highly durable form of plastic. Pipes won't pit or corrode, causing leaks. Plastic pipes are also quieter than copper and other metal pipes and produce less condensation.

Some Simple Preventive Steps

If it isn't possible to replace the entire plumbing system in your home at one time, there are preventive measures you can take to help minimize the risk of copper exposure. Water absorbs more copper as it stands in the pipes, such as when you aren't using the plumbing overnight or when you are away from home during the day at work or on vacation. Running the cold water faucet for up to a minute clears standing water from the pipes, making it safer for drinking.

Since copper dissolves more quickly in hot water than cold water, use water you need for cooking from the cold water faucet and heat it. Also, since infants and young children may be more vulnerable to the toxic effects of copper, you should never use water from the hot water tap for mixing baby formula.

For more information, contact a service like Bishop Plumbing, Heating and Cooling.