Lead contamination in drinking water

Simple ways to prevent contamination – Health Canada limits the lead content in drinking water to 10 parts per billion in a sample of running water. This means that the municipal water supply contains virtually no lead. So how does lead contamination occur and how can we protect ourselves?

Harmful effects on health despite many benefits

Malleable, ductile, affordable and easy to weld, lead has been used in plumbing since ancient times. However, it is very harmful to human health. Some historians even argue that lead contamination could be partly responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire!

A minimal amount of lead in the blood affects human health to varying degrees. Between 10 and 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood can have harmful effects on the neuro-behavioural and cognitive systems in children and fetuses, while a level of more than 40 micrograms can interfere with the production of red blood cells. Cases of lead poisoning, at very low doses, are difficult to identify and that is why very few are recorded in Canada.

Lead contamination

Contamination occurs within buildings, where lead can be found in certain connections, plumbing fixtures and in welds. It mainly occurs when the water remains stagnant for more than 6 hours in pipes where there is the presence of lead, which then dissolves in the water. Hotter is the water, higher is its dissolving power.

Older homes, especially those built before 1955, are more at risk because the water connections were, at the time, made of lead.

Since then, the standards and requirements governing the use of lead in plumbing have continued to evolve. Recently, in 2014, the concentration of lead in taps and plumbing fixtures used for the distribution of water intended for human consumption was reduced to 0.25%.

Safety measures

Domestic equipment exists to decontaminate the water, including carbon filters installed directly on the tap, reverse osmosis purification systems and distillation units. Some of these equipment are expensive and require regular maintenance.

It is therefore recommended to perform these very simple actions which can make a difference:

  • Let the water run for a few minutes after a 6-hour period of non-use,
  • Cook in cold water,
  • Regularly clean the faucet aerator.
How to identify a lead connection

Find the shut-off valve for the main water inlet and observe the pipe. The lead is grey, it does not resonate if you hit it and leaves metallic marks when you scratch it. It does not attract a magnet.

Do not hesitate to call a specialist to identify potentially risky plumbing lines.

Source: Health Canada

Common mistakes when installing a backflow preventer

5 most common mistakes when installing a backflow preventer Many problems can result from the improper installation of a backflow preventer device, including high recurring maintenance costs, or insufficient protection with respect to the risk level. Here are the 5 most frequently encountered errors:

  1. Backflow preventer device installed at more than 5 feet: The device must be installed lower than 5 feet from the ground, in order for testing, maintenance and repair to be done in optimal and safe conditions for the verifier. It is preferable to relocate a device that is installed too high, or, if this is not possible, to provide a secure platform eliminating the risk of falling for the verifier.
  2. Reduced pressure backflow preventer device (RP) specification not met: Proper installation of a device must take into account the presence of a nearby drain, as the relief valve could leak for a variety of reasons. To avoid major water damage, the exhaust port should be connected directly to a drain pipe and terminate with an indirect connection above the floor drain. In addition, the piping leading to the drain must be of adequate size. The installation of the air gap under the pressure relief valve is mandatory and must be carried out using the fitting provided by the manufacturer. This will ensure that it is the correct size for the return piping. For discharge to the floor drain, an air gap is mandatory.
  3. No Y-strainer upstream: Debris can sometimes be found in the water system. If these debris get stuck in the device, they can damage and render the device inoperable. To prevent this, it is recommended to install a Y-strainer upstream of the device. This protects the device, increases its efficiency; thus reducing premature wear and the contamination risks.
  4. Clearances not respected: The device must be installed in an easily accessible place to facilitate inspection, field testing and maintenance. When clearances are not respected, test cocks may be out of reach. A sufficient space must be provided to work with your hands and use tools, to extract defective parts and to inspect and clean the backflow preventer internal parts.
  5. Backflow preventer device installed vertically with water flow direction downward: The majority of devices are not approved to be installed vertically with the water flow direction downward. The weight of the water column in the pipe could prevent proper closing of the check valves in the event of siphoning or back pressure.

Ask our experts for adequate installation of a backflow preventer.

«Quick Connect» Adapter Set !

A professional job in no time! To perform the field test of a backflow prevention device effectively, the Quick Connect adapter’s kit is essential. Each adapter contains an O-Ring, which ensure a sealed connection to complete all your tests.

Unlike the adapters initially supplied with the purchase of the pressure gauge, the “Quick Connect” adapters screw effortlessly onto the backflow preventer test cocks. You can then connect the test kit hoses to it, without applying Teflon or using tools, all in just a few seconds! Your purchase will pay off after as little as five field testings!

Using these adapters has many advantages:
  • Allows considerable time savings in testing a backflow prevention device: in most cases, fifteen minutes is sufficient,
  • Ensures sealed connections through integrated O-rings,
  • Protects the device and the pressure gauge from risk of breakage: Teflon can get inside the internal components and cause damage,
  • Ensures a clean and professional work: Teflon leaves traces on test cocks unlike adapters.
Available adapter kits

We have already prepared adapter kits or we may customize the kits to fit your specific needs.

The basic kit includes 9 adapters:

  • 3 adapters for test cocks 1/4”
  • 3 adapters for test cocks 1/2”
  • 3 adapters for test cocks 3/4”

The complete kit includes 12 adapters, one for each test cock:

  • 4 adapters for test cocks 1/4”
  • 4 adapters for test cocks 1/2”
  • 4 adapters for test cocks 3/4”

We recommend that you complete your set with additional 1/4’’ 90 ° swivel adapter units. These adapters facilitate the certification of backflow preventer devices when test cocks are poorly located and difficult to access.

Order your adapter kit today!


The use of lead-free products in plumbing

Lead-free products: New requirements –

In Quebec, since May 1, 2014, it is prohibited to install faucets and other plumbing accessories containing more than 0.25% in lead concentration. These new requirements are detailed in Chapter III, Plumbing, of the Quebec Construction Code and based on the 2012 edition of CSA B125.1 and B125.3. These measures seek to reduce the presence of lead in drinking water, which is harmful to health.

List of products affected and not affected by changes

For now, only products used for drinking water intended for human consumption are subject to these new requirements:

  • Water supply fittings for drinkers
  • Water taps for kitchen sinks
  • Washbasins and tubs
  • Shut-off valves
  • Automatic compensating faucets (excluding showers)
  • Supply shut-off valves
  • Integrated temperature actuated mixing valves

Products dedicated to the distribution of drinking water not intended for human consumption are not affected:

  • Automatic compensation taps wall mounted shower systems
  • Supply fittings for baths and showers
  • Supply fittings for bidets
  • Supply fittings for washers
  • Shut-off valves for humidifiers
  • Supply fittings for mop sinks
  • Lawn and sediment drain valves
  • Self-closing, rolling feed connections
  • Shower heads
  • Hand showers
  • Body Sprays
  • Anti-siphon supply valves
  • Solenoid and flush valves
  • Thermal expansion relief valves
  • Siphon initiators
  • All other products not covered by CSA B125.1 /.3
Lead-free backflow prevention device:  mandatory from 2017

Pressure reducers and backflow preventer devices for area or establishment protection will be added to the list of targeted equipment from 2017.

This is why we now recommend installing backflow prevention devices that have less than .25% in lead content on all drinking water plumbing systems.

Backflo Shop has access to several brands and models of lead-free backflow prevention devices.

Ask our experts to help you select the appropriate device!