What are the risks associated with PEX piping?


Quick Answer

One of the main risks associated with PEX piping is that the pipes leach both tert-butyl alcohol and methyl tertiary-butyl ether in amounts that exceed some state water-quality regulations. Additionally, PEX pipes may react with chlorinated drinking water to create toxic chemicals. PEX piping also produces toxic smoke when a building catches fire and develops bacteria-laden biofilm more easily than copper pipes.

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Full Answer

PEX is cross-linked polyethylene, a highly dense plastic tubing that does not easily break down and is not recyclable. PEX pipe is more porous than copper pipe; thus, gas, pesticides and other dangerous substances that do not permeate copper can seep through PEX. PEX pipes also degrade very quickly when exposed to ultraviolet light.

In 2010, California instituted regulations limiting the ways in which PEX piping may be used in that state.The new regulations require that any PEX piping that is placed in soil with the intent of carrying drinking water must be housed in an impermeable sheath. Additionally, PEX piping installed in newly-constructed buildings must undergo a complex flushing process to reduce water contamination, which occurs at the highest levels during the first 30 days the piping is used. All PEX piping also must have a minimum of 30-day UV light protection and meet uniform international testing standards.

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