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Study shows brass devices in plumbing systems can create serious lead-in-water problems
Date:11/11/2010

A new research study co-spearheaded by Virginia Tech researchers highlights problems with some brass products in plumbing systems that can leach high levels of lead into drinking water, even in brand new buildings and suggests that such problems may often go undetected.

Lead is heavy metal that can harm the nervous system and brain development, and is especially dangerous for pregnant women, infants and children.

The study, published in the November 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Water Works Association, is the result of collaborative research between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech.

The research was conducted by Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for campus services at Chapel Hill, along with Marc Edwards, the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering, and Paolo Scardina, assistant professor of practice, both at the Virginia Tech Charles E. Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The collaboration started in early 2007, when Chapel Hill discovered high lead in water in new buildings and asked Virginia Tech to assist in diagnosing and remedying the problem. The team developed a flushing protocol, which aims to ensure that before buildings are occupied, new faucets and water fountains met the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead and Copper Rule of less than 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water, or 15 parts per billion.

The researchers also determined that switching to plumbing devices that meet specifications required under California law, which is stricter than federal regulations, would not solve the problem.

In mid-2008, an unusually severe problem arose with two drinking fountains in a large new laboratory building, one of which had lead levels exceeding 300 parts per billion. Repeated attempts to flush the lead over several months and to use conventional remedial measures were unsuccessful.

The problem
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Contact: Steven Mackay
smackay@vt.edu
540-231-4787
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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