Following the recent prosecution of a kitchen fitter on seven counts of the illegal use of lead solder on a domestic drinking supply, the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) is calling for the plumbing and heating industry to completely boycott lead solder.
In reaction to the story, APHC CEO John Thompson said: "Lead-free solder should always be used for drinking water connections. The use of lead solder on domestic drinking supplies was banned in 1987, as it is known to be harmful to health.
"Water companies are able to test the quality of drinking water in domestic properties and unsatisfactory lead results are investigated and prosecution is normally sought where applicable. The tradesman who was recently prosecuted was done so under the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999, which govern how plumbing systems are installed, used and maintained."
John explained that this case demonstrates that further action is required, as it is still possible to buy lead solder. This is due to the fact that lead solder can legally be used on non-drinking water installations, where the water is not required to be wholesome, such as closed circuit central heating systems.
He continued: "It is important to ensure that any leaded soldered products are kept totally separate from those that are lead-free, but really I want to encourage plumbers and heating installers to stop using lead solder and for manufacturers and merchants to stop selling it, as lead-free alternatives can easily be used in joining copper pipes on all plumbing and heating works.
"If we as an industry stop using lead solder, or ideally if it can’t be purchased, then this would go a long way in protecting public health from DIY enthusiasts or unqualified plumbers who don’t know the regulations or understand the health risks associated with lead solder."
The APHC runs a Water Regulations Course, which provides an understanding of how to work compliantly with the regulations, and recognise and rectify contraventions. Successful completion of this course, alongside a full plumbing qualification, can allow plumbers to join the WaterSafe scheme.