Repairing or replacing the plumbing in your home may seem simple, but it can be dangerous for amateurs. There are hidden safety hazards that must be considered before deciding to attempt a home plumbing project. These dangers include:
You may fall from a ladder while attempting to loosen a stubborn pipe fitting, or be knocked off your feet by a sudden geyser if you compromise the integrity of a water supply pipe. Working on wet floors or ladders significantly increases the chances of falls.
Working with hot water heaters or pipes can result in severe scalding from exposure to hot water or steam. Soldering copper or thawing a frozen pipe involves the use of a torch. A torch that is hot enough to melt solder into liquid can cause burns severe enough to require hospitalization.
Exposure to hazardous materials
Plumbing in older homes may contain materials that are considered hazardous and may cause long term health issues. Examples include:
- Asbestos. Although it hasn't been used since the 1970s, asbestos was used previously to insulate pipes and other plumbing fixtures because of its resistance to heat, fire, and electricity. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, or mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the chest cavity.
- Lead. Lead pipes were frequently used because of their non-corrosive nature, but lead exposure has since been found to cause severe neurological and mental impairment problems. Lead is still sometimes used in plumbing solder, and exposure to fumes may cause lead poisoning.
- Carbon monoxide. CO1 is produced when gas is burned to heat hot water. It is normally safely vented outside of the home, but if the exhaust vent is damaged or displaced when plumbing work is done above the hot water tank, the home could fill with carbon monoxide. Odorless and invisible, it can kill everyone in the home.
- Sewage. Repairing or replacing a waste water pipe can cause exposure to bacteria, such as E-Coli, that can be deadly.
Strained muscles or other injuries.
Plumbing is physical work under difficult circumstances, and many plumbers suffer injuries because of the nature of their work. Back and knee injuries are common, as plumbers wrestle with plumbing fixtures in awkward positions and confined spaces. Damaged knuckles are also an occupational hazard, as wrenches slip while attempting to loosen decades old plumbing fixtures.
Do yourself a favor. Let plumbers do what they are trained to do, and keep yourself safe.