Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Are Plastic Water Pipes Safe?

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“Is PVC piping safe to use for drinking water? I have used it to run to my house, and it has a slight plastic taste. Can you advise if it’s safe, and if the plastic taste will go away?” -Mathew

Hi Mathew,
The gold standard for years has been copper pipe, with its only known drawback from a heath standpoint being the lead based solder that was used in the joints until 20 years ago when it was banned. Those living in older homes should have their water tested to see if lead is a problem.

Plastic pipe such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride, used for cold water only), and CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, used for both hot and cold water) have been around for years, and both are approved for use with drinking water. Neither can be described as environmentally friendly from a production or recycling standpoint, however, and the glue used to join them together contains some strong solvents as well.

There is some concern about the leaching of chemicals that can give water a plastic taste, though the taste usually improves after a few months. Safety issues are mainly considered a concern in PVC pipe that was manufactured before 1977. While I’ve not seen any compelling evidence of the health risk of drinking water from PVC or CPVC plumbing, there is always the possibility that something will turn up in the future.

Flexible PEX (cross-lined polyethylene, used for both hot and cold water) tubing is becoming the pipe of choice for plumbers today, since it’s easy to install. It, too, can impart a plastic taste to water that goes away with time, but since it isn’t glued together, there are fewer toxic solvents used in installing it. PEX tubing, PVC pipe, and CPVC pipe marked “NSF-61” or “NSF-PW” indicate that they have passed testing for potentially harmful chemicals leaching into the water.

Another option is to install a water filter to remove chemicals present in the water. Find out more about them in our article Water Filters for Your Home.

Danny

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13 Comments on “Are Plastic Water Pipes Safe?”

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  1. john mladjenovich Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    i have a55 yr. home copper tubing in it i also have acidic well water. iam getting pin holes in the pipe. its a small house iam going to do the work myself i don’t know to use plastic or copper tubing iam not woring about the cost to much i woring about healthly part of it thank you very much john m.

  2. Jeri Gauthier Says:
    March 15th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Copper pipes used in an area where well water is highly acidic has caused some users to contract Krohn’s disease or diverticulitis. One of the Statler Brothers died of Krohn’s disease. It is very debilitating and exrtremely expensive to treat. There is a class action suit against the plumbers union in California for demanding the use of copper plumbing. There have bee high incidences of Krohn’s and Diverticuis in California and Indiana.

  3. abdullah Hotak Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Is it allowed to use UPVC pipes for potable water? Please give me your advice tanks .

  4. Vince Says:
    December 21st, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I had the main water line from the street to the house bust from age it was galvanized and rotted through out about 50 ft. So I had some 3/4 PVC that I had left over from a lawn project and replaced it with that, we buy bottled water to drink and cook with but I had heard something about PVC pipe being bad to use for drinking from..I figured if I really need to use it,I could boil it and if its a emergeny where the gas is shut off drinking from it for a short period shouldn’t hurt! I am guessing. Comments?

  5. Slink Says:
    January 29th, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Boiling is a start but you would also need to let the water cool and then filter it. Generally, you should dechlorinate water with an particular type of inline filter before drinking or bathing with it. As for the other possible chemicals, it’s a good idea to use a filtered water pitcher to remove any remaining substances. Note: simple filters cannot remove dissolved minerals or salts such as fluoride, sodium or calcium salts, etc. You might consider investing in a water distiller if you’re that concerned!

  6. James Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    In Wisconsin where I am a plumber, you may only use CPVC for potable water piping. PVC can be used for water piping but only to non-potable outlets(not drinking water). With installing numerous types of materials over the years I actually here the fewest complaints about fouling taste with CPVC, although it take a month after initiAl install to completely get rid of the taste. And with PEX only handyman use that because of ease of install, or if you are looping water lines underground.

  7. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Hi James,
    Thanks for the feedback!
    Maybe it’s a regional thing, but here in the deep South the plumbers I’ve seen often use PEX.

  8. James Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I have heard that. And we have a very strict plumbing code up here and with the pressure loss you get from PEX piping it does not pay when we can run a 3/4 inch line in CPVC or have to run a 1 inch PEX or bigger. But that is mostly calculated from the small diameter of most PEX fittings (not all but most). But with either PEX or CPVC the taste goes away very quickly and lots of people are so use to the metallic taste from their metal piping that any change will be some getting use to, although they are more then likely getting cleaner water.

  9. Andrew Says:
    April 18th, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    More information about plastic plumbing drinking water pipes can be found here: http://www.usacoe.org/ajwhelton/?p=3590. This site describes results of an ongoing Federal grant where the project team is testing plastic drinking water plumbing pipe.

  10. t Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I think the chemical industry is behind many of these comments. There is no way in my mind that PVC will ever be as good for humans as elements naturally found in the human body: copper and iron.

    Dioxins leached from PVC. If they are banning it from children toys, why are we allowing plumbers to install it to our drinking supply?

  11. shenal Says:
    September 4th, 2014 at 6:03 am

    Is drinking water passing through a plastic flexi hose contaminated with toxic chemicals?

  12. gunga64 Says:
    September 14th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    The standard is above Schedule 40 PVC with PW rated cement appears to be good.Use schedule 80 fittings. Also says safe for portable water and can withstand 140 degrees. I would only use for cold side but thats me. Also if any PVC is exposed to sun. i would paint with latex paint and putt rubber AC type material over the pipe outside.

    My builder in 2004 apparently used PVC in Florida, and painted the small amount of piping that goes to house supply with latex paint. I would change to copper before entering house.

    By the way our pool also uses pvc

  13. Mike Myburgh Says:
    October 7th, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Question: How are pcv pipes graded re size and wall strenth and thickness. ?

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