2

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Home plumbing: copper vs. PEX - estrogenic chemical risk? copper-zinc imballance?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 11, 2012 at 4:12 AM

My folks live in a fairly rural area and have a well. Our water is pretty acidic, which is clear from the blue copper deposits which you can see on the white tubs, sinks, etc...

A few days ago, one of the pipes finally sprung a small leak, and it is time for my folks to start thinking about redoing the plumbing in the house. They are leaning towards a cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) plumbing system, which has numerous advantages over copper, including cost, and much lower risk of pipes bursting in the winter.

I'd like to know what risk, if any, there might be from chemicals with estrogenic activity leaching out of the pipes. I assume that they wouldn't contain BPA (?!) but I've heard from some people that many other compounds in plastic might have estrogenic activity.

Copper is not without it's own risk of course, because of our acidic well water. We all seem to be zinc deficient (if the taste test is to be believed) and I wouldn't be surprised if the copper in our water was out-competing zinc for absorbtion.

What are people's takes on the subject?

Thanks!

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 08, 2013
at 01:52 AM

Makes me miss downotes.

9605b157f7ae5b131f2e0b244c9b7500

(0)

on September 07, 2013
at 11:48 PM

Hang on there...I agree PEX soup is not gonna be good, but you don't put boiling water thru your lines, in fact about the hottest you should be push is around 130 MAX. You can get by with 110 if your runs are not too long or you can insulate. Don't think boiled, fried or baked PEX is gonna be a treat...

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6 Answers

1
Ef228708abd5f082f633b1cd1d64eee1

(892)

on May 11, 2012
at 01:55 PM

We're contemplating getting PEX. My hubby the plastics scientist says that PEX tubing isn't rated for outdoor use, but as long as it stays out of the sun it should be pretty much completely inert and won't leech anything into the water supply.

1
7e1433afbb06c318c4d90860d493c49d

(5959)

on May 11, 2012
at 12:23 PM

When we added on to our house, we had to run a water line up and over a 20" thick earth block wall, through the attic. Thank God it's a PEX line, because whenever we get a serious arctic cold snap, that line freezes up solid, even though it's wrapped in insulation. It freaked me out the first time it happened, but it appears that PEX can freeze/thaw until the end of time without breaking.

As for the acidity of your water, I would think a calcite mineral cartridge would easily raise the pH. Talk to water treatment specialist about that.

1
Df6dabaf4b1ef3d5db980ad64c501a5b

on May 11, 2012
at 11:36 AM

I don't have any concerns about PEX piping. There are enough people who've been using PEX for long enough that it's safe to say there are no immediate health risks associated with using it.

As far as I've been able to determine, PEX doesn't contain either BPA or phthalates, but there is some info online suggesting that some batches of PEX has been found to release very small quantities of MTBE.

Looking at the broader picture, it's far more likely that contaminants would enter a shallow well supply via the well as opposed to the piping in the house. It's still prudent not to use hot water from the tap for drinking or cooking, since hot water sitting in pipes will absorb more of whatever it's capable of absorbing from the pipes than cold water will.

0
4917a648e2d2be014d347428f1af221d

on September 07, 2013
at 11:10 PM

Anyone who is concerned over taste and/or odor issues need only to take a small length of PEX pipe (1 ft.) cut it into small pieces, put them in a two quart saucepan fill with water (distilled or tap), bring to a boil, and then determine if you would want to drink/bathe/launder in that "stinky" water.

9605b157f7ae5b131f2e0b244c9b7500

(0)

on September 07, 2013
at 11:48 PM

Hang on there...I agree PEX soup is not gonna be good, but you don't put boiling water thru your lines, in fact about the hottest you should be push is around 130 MAX. You can get by with 110 if your runs are not too long or you can insulate. Don't think boiled, fried or baked PEX is gonna be a treat...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 08, 2013
at 01:52 AM

Makes me miss downotes.

0
C29abc802c08e952e1180cd1a9d4d498

on June 27, 2013
at 05:44 PM

I've heard pex loses chlorine resistance when exposed to sunlight for any extended length of time.

0
B1207d35cbc98c84f12a3b9f701f85e0

on October 26, 2012
at 03:16 PM

Hi Kirsten

Does "stay out of the sun" mean only direct sunlight? Or could the heat from an attic negatively affect the PEX as far as leaching any toxic plastics into the water? Thanks!

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