Copper in Bathwater

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    Copper in Bathwater

    Six weeks ago a new boiler was installed in my property by a contractor (part of refurbishment works by my housing association) and since then my hot water has been a turquoise shade, most prominent when I run a bath in the mornings. Three days following the installation there were also smalls dark green "bits" floating around, but these seemed to have disappeared. The installation itself was badly carried out, by what looked like eighteen year old apprentices. It was supposed to be completed in five hours, but after two plumbers came, the electricians failed to connect it - so I had no hot water that evening or the next day until I requested they finish the job. Since then the shade of green has not been diminishing and after some research appears to be caused by copper, which is not safe for humans to absorb through the skin.

    I have informed the contractors twice, but so far nothing has been done to rectify the problems, nor have they come around to speak to me. I'm waiting for Environmental Health to return my call.

    Does anyone experienced anything similar, or have any advice on how I can convince them to carry out this repair. I'm going to be forced take out gym membership and shower there if this continues.

    Write to the housing assoc. and inform them, you may want to get an independent engineer to look at the system.


      My initial Google query returned benefits for copper absorbed through the skin, in terms of skin creams and anti-rheumatism copper bracelets! You can even get expensive baths made of copper!

      Long term copper contamination would only happen if the water was very acidic, and, assuming it comes from the same source as the drinking water, which is likely to be going through copper pipes, maybe you should be more worried about drinking the water.

      You can buy test kits, intended for aquariums, for measuring copper levels in water.


        Drinking water shouldn't be going through the boiler, there should be a separate source for drinking water to at least one cold water tap.

        I would talk to the housing association, not the contractors.

        I'd also condsider running the tap for a long time to see if the problem is a temporary issue (some contamination / sediment that was disturbed on installation) or an ongoing issue.
        When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
        Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


          The drinking water will still be going through copper pipes in most houses (lead in very old ones and plastic in recent ones). The only real difference a boiler with a copper heat exchanger would make is that the water is hot (although the down stream piping, rather than the boiler may be the actual source). The other factor that may be at play is that, in a hard water area, the older copper piping may be coated in limescale, which is protecting the copper from direct contact with the water. This may not yet have formed on the new plumbing.

          Also most safety limit data is based on drinking water. Skin absorption is likely to require much higher levels for it to be an issue.

          Incidentally, copper salts are blue/green, so if the colour is deep green, it may be from a different source.

          Actually, looking at the MSDS for copper sulphate solution, the skin risk seems to be skin irritation, rather than some nasty hidden effect from systemic absorption.

          I'd certainly consider a testing kit, to get quantitative data.


            The drinking water through the cold tap seems to be perfectly fine. I've spoken to my water company who seem to think it's safe to drink. If copper turns out to be beneficial then I have nothing to worry about, but to be on the safe side I should probably get this checked out first.

            I've managed to get hold of the email address for the senior project manager of the renovation works at my housing association. I'm sending them an email and hopefully they will actually do something, but more likely they will completely ignore it. Thanks for the suggestions though!

            Just Peachy!


              I've just found a really great piece of new legislation which I can quote - the Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which covers my tenancy! It applies to potential hazards in rental properties that the landlord must fix.

              Feeling a little more empowered to report this now.


                That actually does very little. All it means is that you can sue the landlord, for breach of contract. To be unfit for human habitation, the council will have had to declare it as such based on the, much older, Housing Health and Rating System (HHSRS), which dates back to at least 2005.

                It has no value in terms of getting an injunction to fix, as the council will issue an improvement order or prohibition order in any case where that would be applicable.


                  Being a housing association property may complicate things, as they are immune from some legislation . They don't appear to be immune from the Act you mention, but I'm not so sure about HHSRS.

                  Also, if your tenancy came into existence before March this year, the Act you mention may not be effective for you until March next year, as there is a one year grace period for existing tenancies.


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