Thursday, February 13, 2014

Will Miss #534 - not having to run the cold water

There are habits that you get into for a good portion of your life that you can forget that you ever had if you've been away from them long enough. I'm not talking about unforgettable things like smoking or compulsively turning around three times and whistling "Dixie" before you turn the door knob for fear that the boogie man will be on the other side if you don't. Not that I've ever done that...

I'm talking about things like growing up in the Northeast and having to run your defrosters on your car such that doing so is second nature or remembering to take an umbrella in Tokyo because it's the rainy season. One habit which I had completely forgotten about which was a regular part of life in the U.S. was the way in which you've got to run the tap on the cold water for awhile every time you need water for drinking. This is necessary because you have to flush the pipes in case lead has accumulated. It's not only annoying, but wasteful, and where I'm living at present is in an extended drought so it feels especially so.

The reason that you don't have to run the water in Japan is that they don't use copper or lead in their pipes. They use stainless steel. When I lived there, I didn't have to stand around running the water before I could drink it and I miss that. 


  1. The drought here in Calif is bothersome, indeed, in the respect you noted. But it is also potentially catastrophic in terms of damage to farm land, costs of raising cattle and poultry for market, and fires to come in the dry hillsides.

    I can only vaguely recall one year when Japan had to deal with a lack of water like this. They are blessed with ample rain almost every year and on a fairly regular basis. The downside: humidity that can be quite unpleasant to live with!

  2. I wasn't aware there are still lead pipes in use in the US. Sounds dangerous. But anyway it is recommended for any kind of pipe material to let the water running for a while if the intention is to use it unboiled - because of bacteria. There are some nasty bacteria that live in damp places and especially if a tap hasn't been used for a couple of days there may some very bad bacteria (mainly Legionella) living inside.

    I've read of cases where people in first world countries have attracted Pontiac fever just from showering in their second homes where they didn't let the water run for a while.

    1. I've read that there is lead in copper pipes and lead in the solder that connects various types of pipes together. Though lead pipes that are solely or largely composed of lead are uncommon, the lead that remains in mixed types is still an issue, or at least that is what I have read. ;-)

      I didn't know about the shower issue. That's a scary one, and the truth is that I only let the shower run until the water gets hot so I wonder if I should let it run longer (it gets hot very fast in my current place).

    2. My mom loves watching shows like House Hunters, Love it or List it, and practically everything related to renovation on HGTV and the DIY Network. It's through them that I learned that some older homes, built before late 1980s, along the Northern East Coast of the United States and Canada, as well as Mid-Southern California, still have lead pipes and use Aluminum wiring. Not sure why this is present California, but I know that in Northeastern US and Canada people tend most of the available houses are older and the people tend keep the property in their families for generations to come. Because the homes are seemingly maintained they don't need required in-depth inspections unless the home owner is trying to value, rent, or sell their property. Sometimes the lead piping isn't actually in their homes, instead the pipes that connect the street water main to a home or entire neighborhood may have lead in them.

  3. It may reassure you to know that as of January 1, 2014, it is illegal to install any plumbing valve, pipe, etc. that contains lead at all. I work in the office for a plumbing company and saw the big jump in prices. Lead has been in the process of being phased out for years, but this year it's official. Of course that doesn't help much if you live in an older home, so let those faucets run a bit if you can.


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