If your home or commercial building was built between the late 1970’s and the mid 1990’s, polybutylene pipes may have been and may still be there.

So, are polybutylene pipes a problem? The short answer is YES. They are a financial risk and a health risk. They have a life span of 10 to 15 years (the shortest of all plumbing pipes today) after which they begin to deteriorate. It becomes costly to replace your pipes in that short of a length of time. Because they are made of resin (a plastic) they pose a health risk to seniors, babies, children and adults with immune system disorders.

Polybutylene Pipe Health Risks

According to Wikipedia “Polybutylene (polybutene-1, poly(1-butene), PB-1) is a polyolefin or saturated polymer with the chemical formula (C4H8)n.

Basically, it’s a form of plastic resin. And because it’s plastic, there are concerns that drinking water from any plastic container (including pipes) are harmful to our health. The reason is that along with the water that we’re drinking, we’re also ingesting pieces of plastic, microplastics.

Just a few microplastics in our bodies won’t hurt but the problem is they are almost everywhere and as a result, we are putting more plastics in our bodies than we even realize. Although one of the biggest culprits is bottled water – the plastic piping in our homes and commercial buildings only contribute to the accumulation.

For healthy adults, this health issue does not seem problematic but for babies, children, elderly and anyone compromised with immune system disorders the dangers are real and they should avoid drinking water from any form of plastic.

When polybutlene pipes deteriorate, they do so from the inside out. So, a visual inspection of the pipe may not necessarily reveal any problems. Therefore, the health risks can go undetected for many years.

About The Polybutylene Pipe Lawsuit

From 1977 to 1996, the Shell Oil Company was the only company producing polybutylene resin which, as I said earlier, is the product used to create polybutylene pipes.

Problems with leaking from these pipes began surfacing in the 1980’s and as a result, litigations began in California and Texas. This resulted in a 1995 Class Action settlement, Cox v Shell Oil, of $1 billion dollars. As a result, U.S. building codes deemed polybutylene pipes an unacceptable product.

How To Identify Polybutylene Pipes

The 4 ways to identify polybutylene pipes are…

  • Color
  • Stamp with the letters PB
  • Check your main water shut-off valve
  • Expose the pipes in your home
  • Check the fittings joining your pipes

1) Color – Polybutylene pipes are normally Blue, Silvery Gray or Black in color. Generally, the blue pipes were used outdoors, and the other two colors were used for indoor plumbing.

2) Stamp With The Letters PB – Most of the polybutylene pipes that were manufactured were stamped with the letter “PB” followed by a string of numbers. If you can see your pipes, check for this stamp.

3) Check The Main Water Shut-Off Valve – Outdoor polybutylene pipes were often installed near the main water shut-off valve – investigate that area for the blue pipes. Indoors – if you have a drop down ceiling in your basement you can then see if the pipes there are Silvery Gray or Black. You may also find polybutylene pipes near water heaters.

4) Expose The Pipes In Your Home – If you are in the midst of a re-construction and have the opportunity to remove drywall or panels around sinks, showers, tubs and toilets then you will have a great opportunity to see if your home is plumbed with polybutylene.

If you have any questions about polybutylene, Atlantis Plumbing are the experts in polybutylene pipe replacement. Call us today at 770-505-8570. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.