The Ministry of the Environment has received approximately fifteen reports of problems with pipes.New plastic water pipes have caused olfactory and gustatory problems over the past year.

PEX water pipes have shed chemicals that have produced unusual and easily perceptible smell and taste effects in drinking water.

According to The Ministry of the Environment and The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health problem cases have been reported around the country.

The Ministry of the Environment has received approximately fifteen reports of pipe issues within a year. Problems have been observed in new houses or ones with recent pipe renovations.

Evidence of any health risks have not been uncovered, however the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will continue to investigate the water. The effects of all substances present in the water are not yet known.

"The taste and smell of the water has been described as stuffy, and reminiscent of plastic and solvent," says Director General of The Ministry of the Environment Helena Säteri.

At least MTBE and tert-Butyl chemicals have been discovered in the water secreted by the pipes. In small concentrations they do not pose health risks.

"Smell and taste are effective alarms. If the water tastes or smells strange, it cannot be recommended for drinking. This means that their concentration in the water is high, i.e. the water does not meet the quality requirements for drinking water," explains Research Professor Hannu Komulainen from the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL).

Komulainen is not yet able to evaluate whether the water with the discernible smell is hazardous for health. All chemicals have not yet been identified, which makes evaluating health effects challenging.

The information from THL regarding health effects is based on published research literature on chemicals.

"It is quite a cocktail," Komulainen says.

Komulainen believes that pipes should be changed if the tap water is not clean. In this case one should turn to the housing company and property manager of the building.

Pipes from abroad

Problems have been discovered in plastic water conduit pipes sold by Uponor and LVI-Dahl. Managing Director of LVI-Dahl Curt Kock states that the quality issue of plastic water pipes was discovered in the products of Golan Pipesystems, imported by the company. They are manufactured in Israel.

"We have received complaints of olfactory and gustatory problems. In all complaint cases we have in good understanding with the manufacturer replaced the pipes with new ones, where the problems have not been solved by running water through them."

LVI-Dahl has removed from sale the pipes that have sparked complaints. Only a small amount of tap water pipes with abnormal problems of taste and smell was manufactured early this year, reports Head of Communications Tarmo Anttila from Uponor. He is not able to give an accurate number.

According to Säteri from the Ministry of the Environment both pipe models are highly common. They can be found in repaired and new buildings.

The pipes that have given off chemicals are Altech PEX-A -25M (Sani) and Wirsbo-PEX NKB 100m ART models. The pipe sizes are 15 mm x 2.5 mm.

Hannes Nissinen, Jukka Perttu – HS
Annika Rautakoura – HT
Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva