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What is the greenest and best material to use for indoor plumbing?

I read that PEX and copper are not the best. Then if PVC is used to bring city water to my home, does that contribute to any chemical leakage? Should I make my plumbing out of natural materials?

What is the best and for how long will it last?

Posted Nov 1, 2014 6:29 PM ET
Edited Nov 2, 2014 4:18 AM ET


126 Answers

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The best would probably be ductile iron piping. It'll probably last 1,000 years, and the water will be carried along a chemically inert interior concrete liner.

Of course unless you are a millionaire and planning to build a castle or a municipal structure, using ductile iron pipe domestically probably isn't realistic. PEX and copper are both fine, health-wise. Copper has the disadvantage that hot water may leach lead from any solder joints and fixtures that have lead in them, and PEX has the disadvantage that it may (not firmly established) leach chemicals from the plastic. In terms of longevity, PEX will probably last forever as long as it's out of direct sunlight. Copper will probably last forever as long as the water in it isn't allowed to freeze.

Pick your poison. Realistically, you should worry more about being killed by just about anything else besides the material used in your plumbing system. They'll both be fine, but PEX generally gets the nod because it's cheaper and better facilitates plumbing best-practices (e.g. not using a million elbows everywhere).

Answered by Nate G
Posted Nov 1, 2014 9:35 PM ET


J. Farnocchia,
Either PEX or copper will work well, and either material will last for many decades. Neither material is associated with any health problems.

This issue has been discussed many times on GBA. If you want more information on the topic, you can read the following articles and Q&A threads:

How Safe is PEX Tubing?

PEX vs Copper

Water supply - PEX?

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 2, 2014 5:59 AM ET


Personally I would suggest COPPER. It's tried, proven and there's no risk of lead contamination within the new blends of solder. There's numerous articles and controversy over plastics in plumbing, health problems and birth defects associated with their use. Our building environment has become saturated with chemicals made into modern conveniences. What's safe is in the eye of the profiteer.

Here are some good reads..

PVC... http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/vinylchl.html

Flame Retardants... http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es502227h

Public comment "TRA Environmental Sciences" over plastics in plumbing California.. http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/bsc/pex/exhibit_a_reid_pex.pdf

BPA... http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/newscience/oncompounds/bisphenola/bpauses... and http://inspectapedia.com/hazmat/Bisphenol-A.htm

Article published by the CDC... http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/publications/books/housing/cha09.htm

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 2, 2014 2:25 PM ET


If you are thinking of using copper you might want to find out if buildings using the same water source experience pin hole leaks due to the presence of minerals.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Nov 2, 2014 3:32 PM ET


Good point Malcolm. That's what water filters are for even though I personally have never heard of this before, even with all the wells around me. Not to say it never happens. I have heard of this in area's where there are high acid level's in the tested water. It also happens where copper piping is in direct contact with concrete.

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 2, 2014 8:03 PM ET


Richard, It seems to be a bit of of a mystery as to exactly what all the possible causes are. Not that using pex would necessarily eliminate the problem as most pex systems use some copper fittings or stub outs, and many codes mandate pex not be used outside of the wall for things like water heater supply lines. Just another annoying problem to think about.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Nov 2, 2014 9:05 PM ET



You bring up a great point. The building I work in has a plumbing leak every week caused by pinhole leaks in the copper plumbing caused by the hard water and calcification caused by the reaction to copper. The damage and costs caused by these pinhole leaks is leading to thousands of dollars. The joints are especially prone to pinhole leaks.

You have better odds of being killed in a car accident , cancer, etc. than you do by PVC or PEX plumbing. Don't over think it and just stick with PVC and PEX.

Answered by Peter L
Posted Nov 2, 2014 10:20 PM ET
Edited Nov 2, 2014 10:21 PM ET.


Interesting analogy Peter. Your analogy from your experience is easily corrected with a professionally installed water filtration system. Clearly your example is not in relation to a copper pipe failure as it is a water purification issue. Maybe the reasonable cause is acidic water or high mineral concentrations?
The same failure could occur at every connection point with plastic piping since these fittings to are copper, brass or both.

Your risk of plastic poisoning from leaching plasticizers and other toxic chemicals do lead to cancer as many studies have shown with many older forms of plastic pipes and water bottles, old and newer versions. It's a matter of proving the pipe or bottles caused the cancer. There's your challenge.

JM sold defective plastic pipe to numerous government agencies as shown here for public water supplies...


The list goes on with water contamination due to plastics and it does not necessarily have to be installed in your home...
PVC has shown it to causes environmental harm and if water is left stagnant in the pipe, chemicals have been found to leach into the water supply. Automatic flushers are the modern solution to minimize risk while wasting natural resources.

Below are several links associated with plastic water piping and risks of cancer among other issues.


I was in a million dollar home yesterday where the homeowners experienced multiple plastic water pipe connection failures over 18 years. Their water comes from a municipal water supply. Most all of the bathroom and kitchen connection fittings have failed over the years and this has cost them thousands in plumbing, wall, ceiling and complete hardwood flooring replacement due to these phantom leaks which went unrecognized sometimes for weeks. Good thing for them they are both doctors with good salaries.

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 3, 2014 11:18 PM ET


Your dismissal of the problem of pinhole leaks in copper tubing is not supported by the findings of researchers. This is a troublesome problem in some regions, and in spite of extensive research, the causes of the pinhole leaks is not entirely understood.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 4, 2014 8:15 AM ET
Edited Nov 4, 2014 8:26 AM ET.


Richard . Copper tubing is not as tried and true as you seem to think . It was introduced in the 20s and gained limited acceptance by the industry in around 1932 . It started really gaining popularity as late as the 1970s , in fact 85% of copper potable water piping has been installed in the last 35 -40 years , much of that has been replaced already for various reasons . 1970s , right around the time PeX was discovered . Pex piping like all materials has been subject to more than it's fair share of fear mongering . One is no more dangerous to human beings than the other . Copper has physical flaws and shortcomings that Pex does not . I will agree with the fact that PolyVinylChloride or ChlorinatedPolyVinylChloride should not be used for potable water distribution anywhere .
Copper suffers from many weaknesses including but not limited to fluid Ph , excess flow velocity ( the main cause of wear ) , acids required to flow solder products (flux) and the fact that lead free only means =<.25% lead contained in a product .
Both types of piping allow a protective film build up within the tubing , what is this stuff that builds up ? Pex is routinely now used for implantation within the human body with no known problems thus far . All Pex is not created equal . Pex A is far superior than B or C and at least one manufacturer does not use UV inhibitors in their product , probably why we buy it as we need it and cannot leave it laying around in the sunlight . That same product was subjected to ongoing elevated temp and pressure testing by Studvik in Sweden and BASF in Germany for 36 years from 1973 until 2009 at 203*F and 175 PSI . Within this time there was no measurable difference in wall thickness nor any dimension . I contend that we would have run through 6 coils of copper under that stress . Pex s molecular structure is stable , inert and unaffected by chemicals commonly found in plumbing systems . I personally have replaced much more 20 year old copper than Pex , as a matter of fact every piece of Pex I have replaced , the damage or failure was due to installer error . As Martin stated above , there are many very unhospitable environments within the confines of our borders that just make copper quite frankly , unusable .

Copper used to be used for medical devices used internally ( IUDs) , any ideas why it is no longer used internally ?
Is it really that unsafe ? http://www.whichmedicaldevice.com/by-category/3/64/302/polyethylenes

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 4, 2014 12:07 PM ET
Edited Nov 4, 2014 12:17 PM ET.


Richard M: You contradicted yourself with this statement below. If it is "inert" and "stable" it does not react with ANY other chemicals period.

"Pex s molecular structure is stable , inert and unaffected by chemicals commonly found in plumbing systems"

Here is a large manufacture that uses Polyethylene.


You don't have to look far to see it anything but "stable and inert", and there are many grades and over a dozen classifications, and ways to manufacture it. Do you have data showing it is inert and stable with all water systems across the world? ASTM F876 only requires chlorine cross linkage test, to test the stabilizer function and resistance. These manufactures are not require to test for all chemicals found in potable water. Please include the additional reactions, stability, to copper and all its alloys, other heat treats and metallic finishes used in "plumbing systems" ?

Here is a list of chemicals this PEX reacts to,
Aromatic hydrocarbons such as toluene or xylene, chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethane or trichlorobenzene, at elevated temp? and other oxides and reducing agents depending on grade?

So what PEX exactly are you referring to? Not that it matters since this product will be installed in homes making your point moot.

Peter L: You have better odds of being killed in a car accident , cancer, etc. than you do by PVC or PEX plumbing. Don't over think it and just stick with PVC and PEX.

People like this taint forums with erroneous information to make a pointless argument without any link to real data.

Listen to Beyer, he has done his home work when it comes to toxins and green materials. Although plastics have great use, they come in many forms, they do not belong in our water supply, they are a hazard to the environment and not "green" ....Metal is in the same boat. We really do need a true inert chemically stable material as proven by a world class chemical lab indi test.

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 5, 2014 6:25 AM ET
Edited Nov 5, 2014 6:48 AM ET.


It's all fine and good to show off your knowledge, but it's unclear how your advice helps J. Farnocchia.

You have explained to J. that PEX can react to toluene. Fortunately, however, most water supplies are free of toluene.

Polyethylene (the type of plastic used to make PEX) is the material used to make milk bottles.

You have told J. that plastics like PEX "are a hazard to the environment and not green. Metal is in the same boat." That's hardly helpful. I seriously doubt that J. wants to craft his residential plumbing system out of glass laboratory tubing.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 5, 2014 6:46 AM ET


Martin, I think Richard B already provided the best data. My last post is in question format, perhaps someone will show a "chemically inert and stable" material and potable water system. I don't have the answer, just baffles me with all the material technology, the chemist have not figured this out. I do know this, there are many forms of most material reactions, unless you are a chemist don't make unsafe analogies to something you really don't understand....there is my advice.

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 5, 2014 6:55 AM ET
Edited Nov 5, 2014 6:56 AM ET.


So, if you consider that both PEX tubing and metal tubing are "a hazard," what type of plumbing have you installed in your own house?

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 5, 2014 7:02 AM ET


My house is old metallic I don't drink the water, but I am getting ready to build innovative "green" or better "all natural, environmentally friendly" to the greatest extend possible spec homes in a new development next spring. We are working on the development and home designs now. If anyone has found a new material to be inert and stable in a potable water "system" and I don't mean a system component such as copper or pex, let me know. Otherwise, I'll probably go with copper with a proper installation. One rule of thumb I have followed based on many years of design, is stick with similar materials whenever possible. Many are not compatible with one another, unless you are a Chemist or a Material Technology Engineer that understand the differences.... I usually have one review my designs, I don't pretend to be one.

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 5, 2014 8:47 AM ET
Edited Nov 5, 2014 8:50 AM ET.


There is no "natural" anything today. Terry, you eat and drink from containers or from streams and snare rabbits with your bare hands? No canned food? No cereal in a box with a plastic liner? No Starbucks in a man made paper cup. I worked in a paper making plant, and I can tell you lots and lots of chemicals involved in the paper making world. One of my many summer jobs was to load some of the chemicals into the mixing hoppers.

I use PEX and I use copper both. PEX is great to work with many of us use both still. If a customer wants to spec what I use, I use what they spec.

My neighbor has a Brita water filter jug......... the jug... is plastic. The carbon filter that holds the carbon is plastic.

Natural earth... has.... radon... nature is not always the choice. Too clean a home and you screw up a newborns immune system. We humans need contact with nature and dirt. I am so dirty everyday from construction that I am healthy as hell. LOL... really.

Anyway who's afraid of the dark? I am... spiders and snakes... bears... and tigers and lions too... natives with poison blow darts... yup... PEX... nope.

I too like you Terry... this post is not meant to insight a riot.

Just an additional FYI.... I try never to kill... would never kill a lion tiger or bear... ate a bear once... but a friend killed it... Eat meat... but am not into the killing aspect myself. Never kill spiders except if it even looks like a brown recluse. That's my breaking point. If you're a brown recluse and are reading this... I am sorry.. but please, stay your distance from me. Let's live and let live my scarey brown spider. Not a fan of beheading animals for the wall or humans for religious display purposes either.

Now what do yaa all think of scarey water pipes?

Happy post Halloween neighbors. Martin, i can cut this down to I like and use PEX and so far live to post here, if you would like me to edit....

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 5, 2014 9:41 AM ET
Edited Nov 5, 2014 9:43 AM ET.


I would be more worried about having anything other than 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen molecules in my water than debating the quality of what that garbage runs through .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 5, 2014 5:56 PM ET


To the Op . You could find some nice straight logs and auger the center like they used to do . It does not get any grenner than that . Some of those mains are still below the streets of NYC .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 5, 2014 5:58 PM ET


I have found augured logs in the woods near abandoned springs, leading to old cellar holes.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 5, 2014 8:14 PM ET


They just recently took out the last few kilometres of the wood supply lines that serve the town near me here on Vancouver Island. I am the operator of a small community water system that uses a 5000 gal cedar tank as a reservoir.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Nov 5, 2014 10:44 PM ET


I guess everyone in your town, Malcolm, has the cedar fever. Or at least anyone who drinks water.

Answered by flitch plate
Posted Nov 6, 2014 2:05 AM ET


Martin wrote: Terry, It's all fine and good to show off your knowledge, but it's unclear how your advice helps J. Farnocchia.

It's not clear to me how the advice since my last post was helpful to the OP, I did however get a chuckle out of the wood, so I'll provide some more "helpful" info......

PEX has a charge, it is not inert nor stable, it reacts with other materials like metals and minerals that can cause corrosion that leaches into the potable water. For those that don't know, the magnitude of the anode-cathode charge is well known and documented, some so strong the materials can be feet away and not in contact. I have read very large reports on the subject, my designs have incorporated an isolation ply of inert materials such as fiberglass. If the PEX manufacture has a double wall design, with FG(e or s) as the inner wall that extends to dissimilar materials that would be inert isolation.

Your city has chemist and Engineers you can contact that fully understand the chemical composition of the water supply. They too understand galvanic corrosion of materials such as plastics, copper and cast iron. They design systems based on that data to your home, that are regulated by state and fed design and safe health criteria, codes based on analytically and empirical data. For example, corrosion inhibitors such as sodium nitrite or sodium molybdate can be injected into these systems to reduce the galvanic potential. However, the application of these corrosion inhibitors must be monitored closely. If the application of corrosion inhibitors increases the conductivity of the water within the system, the galvanic corrosion potential can be greatly increased.They can guide you to continuing a safe system from their system into your home.

Good luck and be safe!

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 6, 2014 6:30 AM ET


Please provide a link to a study (if one exists) that shows that residential PEX tubing reacts with metals or minerals to create corrosion problems in residential plumbing systems or to create toxins that affect human health. I think that you are speculating without data.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 6, 2014 6:56 AM ET
Edited Nov 6, 2014 6:57 AM ET.


I admire your passion . I stand by my argument and at this time will distinguish the fact that my comments only refer to PEX-a tubing made by only 3 manufacturers in this country . What differentiates this tubing from types B & C is the fact that the crosslinking takes place during the extrusion process as opposed to after the extrusion process . Since this crosslinking takes place when the Polyethylene is in it's amorphic state (above the crystalline melting point ) the level of crosslinking achieved is uniform with few if any weak links . I will let you study how the B & C tubings are crosslinked on your own if you wish . Again , the unique molecular structure of PEX-a tubing is stable , inert and unaffected by chemicals commonly found in plumbing and heating systems . " PEX is also resistant to many other chemical-dissolving agents , making it suitable for many applications ." If you would like to make a list of chemicals that concern you and others you should , then immediately contact Uponor at 1-800-321-4739 ( US ) or 1-888-994-7726 ( Canada ) and simply ask about the chemicals on your list , they will surely furnish you with the answers you are looking for .
Maybe if the utilities here and in other places stopped using cheap material for their distribution piping they would not have to INTRODUCE corrosion inhibitors into your drinking water , maybe they will stop putting flouride ( most is bad ) into the water too since most of us brush our teeth . As for the meager ASTM listings you pointed out before i add the following approvals :
ANSI/NSF 14 and 61 certified
Council of American Building Officials ( CABO) 1 & 2 family dwelling code .
ICBO Evaluation Service -Er # 5142 , 5143 Probably better than TRA whose report Mr. Beyer linked to
SBCCI & Standard Plumbing Code , PST and ESI Report # 9661
UPC Listing - Files 3558 , 3946 , 3960 .
HUD Material Release Number 1269 .
On top of that it meets or exceeds the German DIN Standard . You should read up on that one .

Martin ,
Those plumbers who used to perform that task must have had some arms huh ? The fact that you still see them attests to the durability . It's a shame that humans started to view hard work undesirable . So many of the old ways are now being looked upon to fix what we have allowed to get screwed up . seems every time I turn around " Old is new " nowadays . Maybe someday in the future the human race will be able to slow down and see the forest through the trees .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 6, 2014 8:42 AM ET


Martin, Galvanic Corrosion of dissimilar materials has been a known phenomena in the world for centuries, goggle it for links. I don't claim to be a chemist, I have worked side-by-side with them for decades, I know enough to be dangerous compared to them, but I know more than most and when to seek one for a design review. If you don't know the basics of dissimilar materials or like materials you probably don't belong on this discussion. No offense.

There are so many types and classes of plastics and manufacturing methods I have been around a long time, water supply systems, etc, it would be a science project for me to study, I'd rather devote my time to design and hire a local chemist or converse with the city which we are now.

I have worked around and helped write ALOT of standards, in test labs, designs, manufacturing, etc, what I know is many are misleading. ASTM does not enforce it's standards, nor does ISO. They are written by committees that are so called SMEs (subject matter experts), just like code with all it's issues. A big part of why things are screwed up in this country. Listing lots of them does not mean alot to me, looking at local water supply, city and home systems with the proper professionals is of more value.

PEX, PVC, harmful to the environment, not green. Read and weep: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html
People are concerned are doing something about it, I'm just one, like it or not. Yes passion to reduce it in my homes. Most of my building materials come from local quarries and farmers. To every extent possible. I have devoted alot of time and money in R&D to make that possible, it won't end with plastic plumbing.

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 6, 2014 9:16 AM ET
Edited Nov 6, 2014 9:22 AM ET.


With all due respect, the link you provided is an article on the negative affects caused by plastic trash that reaches oceans. The article is irrelevant to the point we are discussing.

Of course I am familiar with galvanic corrosion; I used to work at a plumbing supply house.

Please provide evidence that PEX tubing contributes to a serious galvanic corrosion problem in residential plumbing systems. I seriously doubt that such evidence exists.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 6, 2014 10:03 AM ET


Enjoy your plastics..... Unfortunately we can not hide or escape the wrath of these building materials due to how profiteers and modern tradesmen and women think today.

Quotes from a recent publication over Massachusetts drinking water....

"For nearly 20 years, New Englanders drank and bathed in water without knowing it was laced with a neurotoxin."
"More than half of New England’s 1,050 miles of water pipes sprayed with the contaminant are in Massachusetts, mostly in the Cape Cod region."


I do not recall reading anything like this relating to copper piping!

Martin previously stated above; "Fortunately, however, most water supplies are free of toluene."

I say this with respect Martin! You brilliant construction master mind, Your wrong!

Quoted from the World Health Organization aka WHO........

"In approximately 1% of ALL groundwater-derived public drinking-water systems in the
USA, toluene levels are above 0.5 μg/litre (US EPA, 1988)."


TOLUENE defined by WHO... "Toluene is used as a solvent, especially for paints, coatings, gums, oils and resins, and as raw material in the production of benzene, phenol and other organic solvents and in the production of polymers and rubbers. Most toluene (in the form of benzene–toluene–xylene mixtures) is used in the blending of petrol (petrol combustion is a major source of emissions), and it also occurs as a by-product of styrene manufacture."

In my opinion, it does not matter if it's in the drinking water so much as it is present and that PEX reacts with the chemical Toluene. Imagine the concentrations toluene present in the air when the home is under construction.

How much Toluene is produced and released to the environment?

Production of toluene was 6.4 billion lbs in 1993. It is released into the atmosphere principally from the volatilization of petroleum fuels and toluene-based solvents and thinners and from motor vehicle exhaust. It is also released in wastewaters or by spills on land during the storage, transport and disposal of fuels and oils.
From 1987 to 1993, according to EPA's Toxic Chemical Release Inventory, toluene releases to land and water totalled over 4 million lbs., primarily from petroleum refining industries. The largest releases occurred in Texas and California. The largest releases directly to water occurred in Connecticut and West Virginia.


Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 11:43 AM ET
Edited Nov 6, 2014 11:56 AM ET.


Your source says that 1% of water supplies have measurable levels of toluene, implying that 99% don't. I think this source supports my statement that "most water supplies are free of toluene."

There are two issues here.

1. Should we be concerned that our water supplies are contaminated with toluene? Of course. If industrial polluters are responsible for this contamination of ground water, they should be held responsible for remediation measures.

2. Is there evidence that PEX tubing reacts with the toluene in some water supplies to produce new compounds that are even more dangerous than toluene? Not that I know of -- but I will stand corrected if you can point to a study that shows that PEX makes things worse.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 6, 2014 11:59 AM ET
Edited Nov 6, 2014 12:02 PM ET.


Flitch, That might explain a lot!

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Nov 6, 2014 12:08 PM ET



To answer your question #1. ... It does happen from time to time (corporations being held responsible) only when there's a wallet to chase or these contaminated lands become brown fields for taxpayers to clean up.
On the other hand your also saying anyone who drives a car, paints a house, uses adhesives, etc., should also be prosecuted for discharging this chemical. It's simply not going to happen. Frankly, I think the 1% contamination factor is minimized when almost every building product relies on toxic chemicals for their manufacturing process. Tradesmen and women use them daily and we both know the chemicals are not being disposed of accordingly.

Question 2... You missed what I was implying. If Toluene is present from the off gassing of building materials (outside of PEX pipe) during home construction, will PEX tubing degrade or react with the airborne Toluene?

You stated; "I will stand corrected if you can point to a study that shows that PEX makes things worse."

I think the burden of proof should be placed on the plastics manufacturer to prove what they are selling is in fact safe and nonreactive to Toluene, not your readers.

As I posted above which went unrecognized.... JM told countless municipalities that their plastic pipes were safe and look what happened.

"In some places, pipes made of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, that were supposed to last 50 years or more exploded in their first year, causing injuries, floods and other dangers."
"largest maker of plastic pipe defrauded states and municipalities over a decade by knowingly selling them defective pipe for use in their drinking water"
"JM Eagle’s former corporate parent, the Formosa Plastics Group of Taiwan, was a co-defendant, but it has offered to settle its part of the case for $22.5 million"


There will always be somebody to refute or ignore scientific data. It's buyer beware.

A consumer protection agent with the State said this to me a few years ago...

"If you do not take the time to study the in's and out's of product's your purchasing for your home, you have nobody to blame but yourself when your harmed."


Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 2:44 PM ET


Toluene Releases to Water and Land, 1987 to 1993 (in pounds):

Water Land
TOTALS* (in pounds) 732,310 3,672,041

Top Ten States*
TX 16,285 969,210
CA 0 930,000
CT 316,068 0
OK 0 287,000
VA 27,500 216,000
VI 2,970 191,504
IL 56 180,824
MI 0 129,226
WV 117,523 1,377
SC 6,000 89,578

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 2:46 PM ET


Your expressed worry -- that construction workers will use toluene during construction, and the airborne toluene will attack the exterior of PEX tubing -- is speculative in the extreme. Absolutely no evidence exists that this phenomenon is occurring.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 6, 2014 3:07 PM ET


Richard, come down off the walls my man. PEX plumbing is not being attacked by airborne toluene. Show me one article that reports toluene, and PEX use is killing folks. I have installs and in Europe there are installs that are decades old and are fine. The tubes haven't been importantly they are not making the water so bad that it's worse than Ebola. Get a grip.

I have been constructing homes for decades. I am alive. Friends have died of everything and they don't build homes.

Richard you are on the internet. How? Any plastic in your life, how about the keyboard you are typing this nonsense on, is it plastic and are you committin suicide via your posting here?

This is not an attack. I love Richard. I just think Richard and Terry are in la la land. You both enjoy the use of plastic all through your lives. Either understand that IMO, or move into a cave and disconnect from GBA for your own safety and to follow your own advice.


Really... Am not trying to start anything. Just show exact related facts. PEX is the subject. Point to PEX deaths. I could sharpen the end of a piece and stab someone to death with it I suppose.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 6, 2014 3:19 PM ET


Your right Martin... I'm not worried, just aware.

I'm simply pointing out Toluene (included by another poster above) whether air-borne or water-borne is still Toluene. The question is if Toluene will react with PEX? I don't know the answer to that, but someone reading does. My point is we give manufacturer's to much credit in thinking they will always sell safe products and tell us the truth.
I posted several links associated with toxicity and plastic piping found over the years. What you want to believe is your choice. They to were SAFE back then and not so safe anymore.
Of course these products will not kill us harshly, they may ever so softly.

What tests great in a lab, does not constitute the same results in the field as time continually proves with many manufactured products derived from chemistry.
Remember BPA?

Will plastic pipe carry water from point A to point B? Without question. Will it bring pure water without chemical leaching from the pipe? Doubtful!

These topics are fun for the inquisitive mind to ponder over on a rainy day like today!

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 4:37 PM ET


I accept your latest comments: "I'm not worried, just aware. ...The question is: will toluene will react with PEX? I don't know the answer to that."

OK. Fair enough.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 6, 2014 4:56 PM ET


utter unabridged nonsense

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 6, 2014 9:43 PM ET


Sharing the love AJ. ;)

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 10:58 PM ET


You anywhere near Plattsburgh ?

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 6, 2014 11:03 PM ET


Plattsburgh... The home of the Schluter plastics fire.

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 6, 2014 11:16 PM ET
Edited Nov 6, 2014 11:19 PM ET.


Pretty ironic that after a discussion like this one you would include a link to a fire that probably released loads of the stuff you mentioned into the atmosphere . Even more ironic is the fact that you yourself sell, use , and advocate this stuff for use in homes . See curbless shower thread .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 7, 2014 8:40 AM ET


I told you Beyer knows his stuff, :) Just think we just getting started with Toulene. We think alike. Beyer is one of very few that "shows off his knowledge", I all add to that respectful knowledge. And you Martin, of course. I would provide some links but, I know you are intelligent enough to not draw conclusions from limited internet data. Data that every home, or even a lot sample of homes in every jurisdiction in the world, lacks or results in a reliable design guide. With all due respect, I realize you are an internet designer, but don't let it fool you.

I would think differently with regard to plastics in automotive and aircraft, I never had a chance to design or review the potable water systems in acft, now I wish I had. I was involved in the installation as a ME, I don't remember plastic lines, but the newer tanks are.

As I said, it gets complicated when you mix materials. Having worked in big labs, Beyer is right, what happens there can not always be captured in life cycle and actual environments, especially worldwide.

The biggest problem with this industry as compared to others of corporate structure is builders and homeowners(clients) can design single family homes. In corporate, they are not allowed in Engineering departments unless invited which is rare. The only input they have his on the build, QA on inspection. It is evident by some post, and from I have seen around the internet and here, they are not Design or Manufacturing Engineers, and especially not chemist. Just because you have been installing something for years and not done the proper life cycle testing of that system does not make it correct. The designs I have done are monitored closely, sustained, sometimes for decades. Some of the design changes are the result of better materials and processes, which is a fast moving market Engineers struggle to keep up with, more less builders and homeowners, builders that are too busy building to be on the internet. That, and manufactures such as PEX need to be prohibited from code and standards development.

I've worked for many manufactures in the USA and Beyer is correct again, buyer beware. Quality control is an issue especially for ones that can't afford it. That is why I manufacture my own walls, systems more of challenge since I don't have the facilities and tooling yet, nor budget. If I did I would. I think it is also becoming Architect Beware, tired of manufacturing false claims, take QC in your own hands.

Without builders and homeowners asking design engineering questions ( your job Martin would drive me nuts), without alot of manufactures in code, or to advertise.....what happens to building internet sites? Hmmmm? More to ponder, I could only hope that is the future. After all, I fully believe in supporting the American economy, better yet our local economy's where our kids need jobs.

Metallocenes looks like it has made is way into PE, a "metal complex" in LDPE, not sure about HDPE with more burst pressure mechanical property. It looks to improve the chemical property. Not sure about toxicity in potable water, Richard?

The under carriage chrome moly steel of my Polaris XP900 would be toast if it was not for HDPE with an oil additive. There is no metal that can skid over rocks that last, not even 100KSI CM. Some applications plastics can not be replaced with metal. These skid plates are compression molded, a thermoplastic. How well LDPE extrudes or forms into PEX-A is questionable. I didn't know that mechanical extrusion alone can take a PE to a amorphic state, that usually require heat too.

Richard M wrote: I stand by my argument and at this time will distinguish the fact that my comments only refer to PEX-a tubing made by only 3 manufacturers in this country . What differentiates this tubing from types B & C is the fact that the crosslinking takes place during the extrusion process as opposed to after the extrusion process . Since this crosslinking takes place when the Polyethylene is in it's amorphic state (above the crystalline melting point ) the level of crosslinking achieved is uniform with few if any weak links .

Richard, I believe you are referring the the "glass transition" I have experience with seals and developing it in a lab for manufactures. What three companies are you referring to? Please point to the final indi lab test report and galss transition so I can read it? Studies that show it is inert and stable by indi test?

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 7, 2014 8:41 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 9:23 AM ET.


RM wrote: Pretty ironic that after a discussion like this one you would include a link to a fire that probably released loads of the stuff you mentioned into the atmosphere . Even more ironic is the fact that you yourself sell, use , and advocate this stuff for use in homes . See curbless shower thread .

Beyer is a sales guy? With an agenda? I may have just lost all respect, I never done well with sales guys that twist facts to a sale. I like this site since it values accurate info, I thought it does what it can to avoid sales twisted facts.

I was beginning to believe Richard M had to be a PEX manufacturer sales rep in disguise. You know more than the average layman.

What industry do you guys work for, what products? Do you design or build homes for a living, or do you work for a manufacture of building materials?

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 7, 2014 8:45 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 9:06 AM ET.


You told us that you live in a house with "metal" plumbing supply pipes. Presumably, that means either galvanized steel pipe or copper tubing. Both products are readily available, so any GBA reader who wants to live in a house like yours can go down to their local plumbing supply house and buy some galvanized pipe or copper tubing. Either material works just fine, although galvanized pipes eventually rust, and copper tubing can develop pinhole leaks in some regions of the country.

Apparently you don't like PEX, although you haven't yet provided any reason to explain your dislike of PEX, other than "buyer beware" and a general warning that some manufacturers do a poor job of quality control. I suppose that any GBA readers who are convinced by your arguments will go out (as I proposed earlier) and stock up on copper tubing or galvanized pipe.

I've threaded and worked with my share of black iron and galvanized pipe over the years -- mostly in connection with repairs to old plumbing systems or installation of new propane lines. I don't enjoy the work, but these materials are time-tested. Copper tubing is easier to work with, and that's what I have in my house.

I have absolutely no reason the think that there is anything wrong with PEX tubing, however -- and no one contributing to this Q&A thread has provided any evidence that GBA readers should worry about PEX.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 7, 2014 9:19 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 9:21 AM ET.


I am a fifth generation Plumber and heating designer and installer . I apply the building sciences in all my heating / plumbing designs and truly believe in the house as a system . I am also involved in developing better technologies than we presently have to work with and the equipment to make it possible . I do not work for any manufacturer , only the public at large and to help them intelligently sift through the bull crap spread around so easily through this wonderful invention called the internet . My designs never put first cost above quality and the health and well being of my customers is the most important thing . This whole discussion bothered me because we are discussing material selection based on garbage in the water that should not be there to begin with .

My question is this , bigger than the piping your drinking water flows through is what should we use to build a bubble around every human so they don't have to breathe the air ?
Terry , by your responses throughout this thread I would have thought that Mr. Beyer and yourself had coffee everyday and were colleaques . Guess ya learn something everyday , I know I do .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 7, 2014 9:22 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 9:24 AM ET.


Engel method Pex or Pex a tubing is manufactured by Uponor , Rehau , and Mr. Pex . To my knowledge these are the only 3 US manufacturers . Mr. Pex is a breakaway company of Uponor ( formerly Wirsbo ) and I am not positive of the Rehau origins . As I stated earlier , you can contact Uponor and they will answer questions gladly .
Wanna talk about Buyer Beware ? Look closely at the energy efficiency and rebate programs throughout this country . Dismal failures at all they make you believe they achieve . The one thing they do really well is rob the rate payer .

Answered by Richard McGrath
Posted Nov 7, 2014 9:35 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 9:39 AM ET.


LMAO! I try and type while I awake and drink coffee that's is why I spend so much time editing. :) I have never met anyone on this site nor am I am in private communications.

Fair enough guys. I'll add this, and I don't have to or want to waste time on BS goggle searches. PEX IS NOT the GODSEND of plumbing systems without it's fair share of issues. GBA readers "beware" if you have come to that conclusion.

Plastics come is so many forms, properties and manufacturing methods alone that can change their mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties. Show me a comprehensive report of PEX use in world wide water systems, and in conjunction with other materials "commonly" found in those worldwide systems and water supplies. Show me a min of three decades comparable to metal systems and empirical data. I don't think you will find that either, Beyer is right the burden of proof is on the PEX industry not GBA readers or writers. We don't have the means to disprove or prove it.

Time to quit playing on the net and get to my builds. Later :) We do need the "Chemist an Engineers" to come up with something better.

Answered by Terry Lee
Posted Nov 7, 2014 9:41 AM ET


You guy's are to funny. Yes, I do advocate using Schluter Systems for "Showers" because it's a great waterproofing system which is proven. I do not advocate the use of their foam panels knowing how toxic they can be when they burn. See the fire link for a great example.
Now picture spray foam insulation burning in your home to.

Using Schluter's sheet membranes "under" tile is not going to influence your drinking water but it will save your home from major water and mold damage which your not insured for. Now imagine how much I could earn if I was a salesman for this company? First off, I would be fired for refusing to sell the foam panel systems.
Let's not get off track here and acknowledge there are hundreds of stories out there with bonafide scientific studies illustrating toxins in drinking water from plastic pipe use and plastic bottled water. Unless the chemicals cause immediate harm, life will continue on. When the chemicals are proven toxic our government gives the manufacturer time to switch to another chemical as they figure a way to cover up the problem in the name of saving jobs. This is currently under way with ozone depleting blowing agent's in the foam industry. You don't need to be a scientist to figure this out, but your foolish to think anyone is protecting our families from cancer causing agents used to construct these products.

We live in a buyer beware society for which no one will assume responsibility for the toxic products they create or generate.

Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 7, 2014 10:04 AM ET


Martin said, "I have absolutely no reason the think that there is anything wrong with PEX tubing, however -- and no one contributing to this Q&A thread has provided any evidence that GBA readers should worry about PEX."

Being Martin with his connections to Dr. Joe @ BSC, I would think the two of them would've already taken samples of PEX tubing, boiled it @ 120F and performed a chemical analysis. Where's your report your preparing to toss at us Martin?


"PEX requires special fittings and is not recyclable. The chemical cross-linking required to produce PEX adds expense, and increases the potential for contaminant migration from plastic to water.
Durand also reports that organic leachates were low in CPVC and HDPE and somewhat higher in some PEX materials.

Regardless of pipe material choice, a significant risk of contamination still exists from some plumbing
fixture types (18). Furthermore, due to on-going and legacy pollution, introduced chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial chemicals, etc., are returning to us through surface
water (19). As a result, drinking water may be contaminated prior to building supply and distribution.
Plumbing materials may simply add another “dose” to this ongoing contamination."

PEX Plastic Pipe: Victory Results in Significant Protection for Homeowners, Building Occupants and Workers

"The PEX EIR found that methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-Butyl alcohol can leach from PEX in amounts that exceed taste, odor and health guidelines set by the State of California for drinking water. The PEX EIR found that PEX pipes can initially leach as much as 290 ppb of MTBE."

"The PEX EIR found that, unlike copper pipe, outside contaminants such as pesticides, oil, gasoline, and benzene can permeate through PEX pipe into drinking water."

"Several studies and articles comparing potable water pipe materials, including variants of PEX, polybutylene, polypropylene, CPVC, copper and steel, have found that PEX, at least initially, displayed the strongest biofilm formation and the strongest promotion of the growth of Legionella bacteria."

"2,4-di-tert-butyl phenol and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) were two of the major individual components detected."

"As you can see from this, one chemical that showed higher than average leaching and is a carcinogen was Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), but it disappeared in most of the pipes after five months of use. MTBE has previously been a concern as something inhaled because it is a by product of gas production. Ingestion by drinking isn’t as well studied."


Answered by Richard Beyer
Posted Nov 7, 2014 10:10 AM ET
Edited Nov 7, 2014 11:09 AM ET.


Never saw bologna stacked so high.

PEX is a great product

You guys should go play on a UFO website. You'll find all the rest of your conspirators.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 7, 2014 10:27 AM ET


Richard, southern adker, I do take care of an estate in Chazy every spring... June is spring in Chazy. Coffee or an IPA next June maybe

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 7, 2014 10:32 AM ET

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