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Unhealthy & Unreliable Plastic Pipe Now Law

By Ted Twietmeyer

I always loved copper. Yes, that wonderful heavy metal copper. At a young age I was taught exactly the right way to fit, clean, flux and solder copper pipe, fittings and valves. Call me old fashioned. I'm also a believer in the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Oh, but copper is one of those terrible "heavy metals." Mind you, people believe it's healthy to intentionally consume a heavy metal like silver dissolved in water. Health nuts will tell you how healthy that is for your body's immune system, then immediately remind you how toxic copper is. Unfortunately, these same people probably have never looked at a periodic table of the elements. Copper and silver are close to each other on the table - both of these are heavy metals. Both metals are great conductors of electricity and make modern life possible.

Today, everything related to "heavy metals" is bad for you. What about lead? Yet another terrible, awful heavy metal people use. All traces of lead must be removed from our lives. Pick up a car or truck battery without acid in it. That remaining heavy weight is mostly LEAD and another metal called antimony. Yes, like it or not those terrible heavy metals are what keeps the world on the road. Nothing superior to lead has been found for use in a lead-acid battery.

What about that plastic pipe? No more copper, no more lead solder. Forget about buying cheap pipe fittings for about 39 cents each. Instead, now you get to buy more complex brass fittings to join plastic pipe which now cost about $8.00 or more each. But what about the plastic pipe itself? Whenever water travels through any pipe it picks up whatever materials come from the pipe. This is where things gets quite interesting

New plastic PEX plumbing pipe isn't made like the old PVC pipe you've known for years. PEX is short for cross-linked polyethylene plastic. PEX brings a new standard in vulnerability and unreliability we didn't have in the history of plumbing.

Let's compare various facts between the two types of plumbing:

COPPER - unaffected by sunlight. In fact many solar collectors are made from pure copper
PEX - can break down in sunlight (from UV) causing failure

COPPER - Completely unaffected by insects
PEX - Can be perforated (leak) by insects which chew on the pipe. Imagine that happening inside a wall, floor or ceiling.

COPPER - Economical copper fittings when properly soldered a copper plumbing installation will last more than a lifetime
PEX - Yellow brass (expensive) fittings have already failed causing water damage. Hard water degrades fittings.

COPPER - Adhesives have no effect on copper. You can spray insulation on copper pipe without a problem
PEX - Adhesives and glues can attack PEX plastic, causing what is known as "premature aging." A fancy term for "unexpected leak."

COPPER - Run water for a minute to remove any metallic taste
PEX - Chemicals inside PEX pipes contain long-lasting as methyl tertiary butyl ether and tertiary butyl alcohol which can affect human health. A gift that keeps on giving. In California it was debated for being harmful to human health. PEX won the debate and became law. (Lobbyists won yet again.)

When is the last time you heard of any one coming down with copper poisoning? Yet today all sorts of NEW diseases which have come about, possibility from our endless exposure to complex plastics which began in the last century - long before COPPER pipes were used. What will new complex PEX plastic compounds do to our health? We won't know until it's too late.

If you review the positive side of PEX such as easily routed during installation, faster, more flexible etc... you will see that most of the positive benefits of PEX are related to labor. It all comes down to money saved by quicker plumbing jobs. But this results in numerous reliability and potential health issues for homeowners or business owners to deal with for decades. You can bury copper pipe with little concern. Bury PEX pipe or leave it exposed to the air and insects may destroy it.

Aren't those lawmakers clever? We can thank lobbyists for turning PEX madness into law.

Ted Twietmeyer

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