New Lead Free Plumbing Alloy Could Get The Lead Out

Researchers at Purdue University say they’ve developed a new plumbing alloy that can eliminate the use of lead in plumbing fixtures. The alloy is a manganese and copper blend that is stronger and easier to mold than current lead free plumbing alternatives.

One reason the new combination is so interesting is that both copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature. Typically, different metals harden at different temperatures, which can allow the resulting alloy to become porous, and interfere with strength and other properties. Since copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature, they behave more like a pure metal. Initial testing shows that the new alloy does not develop porous qualities like other alloys can.

The idea of using lead free alloys in plumbing is not new. Since the late-70’s, the plumbing industry has made a major effort to reduce or eliminate the use of lead -even in small amounts. Lead-free solder, lead free pipes and lead-free fixtures are standard today, however some lead can still leech into water systems.

Brass – a common plumbing material for fixtures and valves – can contain lead, which can leech into standing water. Old plumbing solder was typically a mixture of tin and lead. As plumbing joints age and deteriorate, lead from old solder can also enter the water supply.

Another exciting property of the new alloy is that it is relatively inexpensive to make. Copper and manganese are both reasonably available materials. In production, the new alloy is comparable (or perhaps a little less expensive) than current lead free alternatives. The Purdue team will now look to scale up its production in test plumbing applications to learn more about it.

Removing lead from your plumbing system is important to your health and the health of your family. Lead is toxic in any quantity, and there is no safe or acceptable level of lead in a water system. Even systems that don’t contain lead pipes can still acquire lead particles – mainly from older fixtures and old, lead-based solder joints.

While it’s hard to believe, some homes also still have a water line that’s made of lead. You can see whether you have a lead line by looking at the pipe that connects your water meter to the municipal water supply. Lead is a soft, dull silver-colored metal. If you have a dull grey or silver colored water line attached to your meter, take a small flat-head screwdriver and try to scratch the surface of the pipe. You could also press the flat blade of the screwdriver into the pipe. If the screwdriver can scratch the pipe or make an impression, your water line is probably made of lead.

If you touch the pipe, wash your hands afterwards. You can only absorb lead by ingestion or inhalation. While you cannot absorb lead through your skin, touching the pipe can deposit lead particles or lead dust on your hands, which you can then ingest accidentally.

Replacing your lead water line with a safer material can remove an immediate health hazard and give you peace of mind. If you would like more information about replacing a lead water line, or removing lead from your home’s plumbing system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to inspect your home’s plumbing system and identify potential lead hazards.

Photo Credit: Richard King, via Flickr

Plumbing as a career

If you’re looking for a career, a new career or a better career, consider plumbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the plumbing industry is wide-open. Experts expect employment to grow by 16% 2016-2026. Better still, the median salary for a plumber in 2018 exceeded $25 per hour. Some plumbers even report making six-figure salaries.

Plumbing is a skilled trade, which means that you will spend time working with a licensed master plumber in an apprentice position while you learn. As an apprentice, your ultimate goal is to become a master plumber. That process can take several years because you’ll need to complete both classroom and on-the-job instruction. You’ll work as a journeyman plumber for awhile as you accumulate work experience. Once you’ve completed all of the journeyman training and work requirements, you can become a master plumber.

As a licensed plumber, you can work in a commercial setting, a residential setting or both. In addition to the sink-and-toilet plumbing you know, you could also work in highly specialized commercial settings, like power plants, hospitals, manufacturing facilities and water treatment plants. Plumbers also install gas lines and fire suppression systems.

Every year in Massachusetts, about 75% of high school graduates go on to college. For the other 25%, a plumbing apprenticeship pays you a good salary while you learn on the job. You can also put yourself in a position to have a stable, high-earning, high-demand career within just a few years.

If you’d like more information about how to get into a plumbing apprenticeship program, or you’d simply like more information about plumbing as a career, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to talk to you about job opportunities and the job training requirements for plumbing as a career.

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilkie, via Flickr

Boston Standard Company Wins 2017 Angie’s List Super Service Award

For the 8th consecutive year, Boston Standard Company has won the Angie’s List Super Service Award. The award is issued annually by Angie’s List, and it is based on verified customer reviews. The award is given only to the top 5% of companies in each category.

We’ve been named a plumbing and heating Super Service Provider in Boston for eight straight years, and we have only our customers to thank for that. We’re grateful that our clients think highly enough of our service to take the time to review our work. By letting others know about their experiences with service providers in a public forum like Angie’s List – positive and negative – they help identify both reputable and disreputable contractors in our field.

Boston deserves great heating, cooling and plumbing services

At Boston Standard Company, we strive to provide the highest quality service to our customers each time we enter their home or business. Our customers don’t usually call us when things are going right. We get the call when the furnace won’t work, a pipe is leaking or a drain is clogged.

We know our customers rely on us to diagnose their problems accurately, and provide a solution that gets them back on track fast. Fixing a problem in your home or business isn’t like fixing a problem with a car. We know that in order to serve you, we need to come into your home, and some people aren’t comfortable with that.

We also know that repairs and installations can be messy. We take the time to protect your belongings and floors from spills, splatters, dirt and debris. Other than the repair itself, we like to “leave no trace” of the time we spend in your home.

We try to be clear and honest in our communications with you regarding your unique situation. Our trained and licensed staff can offer options for immediate repairs, as well as longer-term solutions for your situation, if that’s warranted. We don’t try to scare our customers into making expensive, unnecessary repairs. We also have a range of solutions that can save you money on your long-term heating and cooling costs.

Our focus is always on meeting our customers’ needs. We take the time to train, prepare and equip our technicians to diagnose problems and provide rapid solutions. We also offer 24-hour emergency service plans that give you the emergency plumbing, heating and cooling services you need around the clock.

Once again, thanks to our Boston area customers who took the time to review our work and recommend us on Angie’s List in 2017!

Photo Credit: Angie’s List

New EPA Rule Aims to Get the Lead Out

A proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency would modify the current definition of lead-free plumbing products. Congress passed new legislation that prohibits the use of plumbing products that contain more than 0.25% lead. Lead can still be found in small amounts in piping, fixtures and fitting, but the new legislation further reduces the permissible lead level for plumbing used in drinking water systems.

Unfortunately, the statute also creates exceptions to the lead-free requirements for some plumbing products that are not intended for use in drinking water systems. According to the EPA, these exemptions make it necessary to clearly distinguish between products that are intended for use with drinking water and products that are not intended to carry potable water.

Lead free plumbing parts would be labeled

The EPA’s new regulations would require plumbing manufacturers to positively identify plumbing products that meet or exceed the new regulations, and to certify that their products conform to the regulations. According to the EPA, the purpose of the new required label is to reduce the likelihood that non-conforming plumbing products – those that are exempt from lead content requirements – will be used in drinking water systems.

Currently, there is no mandatory federal requirement for testing to verify that plumbing products are lead-free. Many off-the-shelf products are – in fact – lead-free, but they may or may not be labeled as such. Eight third-party testing firms currently certify plumbing products as being lead-free. Their tests confirm that “lead-free” products are actually lead-free. Each of these testing firms has its own lead-free certification mark. Under the proposed regulations, all certified lead-free plumbing products will use a uniform labeling system to identify lead-free products. Unlabeled products will be assumed to be non-conforming.

The EPA’s public comment period on the proposed new lead-free designation is open until April 17, 2017. If you would like to review the proposed regulations, or make a comment on the changes, you can visit the EPA website.

If you have lead plumbing products in your home, or you’re not sure, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We can inspect and replace plumbing components with certified lead free plumbing products.

Photo Credit: Richard King, via Flickr.com

Lead Testing Results May Be Skewed

A new chapter in the ongoing debate about the safety of lead in plumbing finds Boston in the center of a controversy about the accuracy of lead testing results. At least 33 cities in 17 states are accused of gaming the results of lead tests on regular municipal water samples.

Lead testing not conducted according to guidelines

The cities in question, which include Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit use a questionable strategy for measuring the amount of lead taken from taps in their service areas. The problem is so disturbing that last week, a law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia, alleging that the testing protocols in place in that city serve to obscure the number of sites that test positive for elevated lead levels, and that water department officials conspired to exclude high test results.

In a story published by The Guardian, the newspaper says that the cities in question routinely used lead test protocols that could produce more favorable results, and could underestimate the number of sites with elevated lead levels. Lead tests are required by the Environmental Protection Agency, and cities are required to test the water in a small sample of homes every three years.

The Guardian says that in many cases, the test results are run on water that has been collected by residents, and that residents are typically instructed to “pre-flush” the water line before collecting the water sample. To pre-flush a water line, the tester would simply open the tap and let the water run for a defined period of time prior to collecting the sample. Pre-flushing eliminates the lead that has leached into the water standing in the pipe.

In addition, officials also corrupt the results of the test by removing aerators and filters before the test samples are collected. In some cities, high-risk homes (and homes known or suspected to be contaminated with lead) were simply removed from the testing regimen.

For nearly a decade, the EPA has stated that pre-flushing violates the “intent” of the test and has cautioned municipal systems not to instruct collectors to pre-flush the water lines. For a decade, EPA officials have asked municipalities not to remove faucet-level aerators from the fixture before collecting the water sample. Boston has already said that it plans to change its testing methodologies to conform more closely to EPA guidelines for the city’s next set of EPA tests.

If you’re concerned about lead in your home’s plumbing system, the experts at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We can help you secure more accurate water samples for testing, and we can also perform abatement services to remove lead pipes, lead plumbing solder and old brass fixtures that may contain lead. Call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: Vlad Iorga, via FreeImages.com

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