Always used lead flashing? Ever considered an alternative?
Lead roof flashing has been popular for many years in construction. It’s extremely long lasting and is economic to use. Of course, lead’s major downside is that it’s a seriously dangerous material. Safe, easy to use alternatives to lead flashing have been on the market for several years and are well worth investigation for a roof flashing solution that’s safe both for people and the environment.
Lead’s long history
Lead is one of the best studied toxic substances and so we know more about it and how dangerous it is, than any other poisonous material. It’s been used for over 6000 years and people have known about its toxicity since 2000BC. This knowledge didn’t seem to stop it being used for a huge range of purposes, all over the world.
Lead poisoning has even been suggested as part of the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire. Possibly this is an over the top hypothesis, but the Romans did use lead pipes and taps, so their water flowed through lead before they used or drank it. They also liked to sweeten their wine with lead acetate! No surprises then, that some of those Roman Emperors were a bit odd.
Because it’s such a useful, flexible metal, lead has found its way into many common household and industrial products such as paint, pipes, bullets and petrol. Many of these products are now made without lead but it took until the late twentieth century for the world to really appreciate just how damaging this heaviest of heavy metals actually was.
An insidious invader
Lead finds its way into the body by various methods, it can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or swallowed. Once ingested, like all metals including zinc and iron, it spreads throughout all the organs and bloodstream. Instead of being useful like zinc and iron are, lead causes its own special kind of damage everywhere it goes. These days it’s banned from paint, from piping and petrol (unleaded petrol was introduced in Australia from 1986).
Symptoms of lead poisoning include stomach cramping, aggressive behavior, constipation, anemia, difficulty sleeping, headaches, irritability and low appetite. Lead poisoning in kids can lead to loss of previous developmental skills. It’s nasty stuff.
Scientists now agree that there is no safe level of lead in the body and any kind of contact with lead should be avoided if at all possible. Unfortunately lead still exists in many old houses in paint, in pipes, and in roof flashing.
So why use it at all? The world is trying very hard to reduce its lead consumption and Denmark has banned it entirely since 2000. Australia is working to eliminate the use of lead products in the building, paint and mining industries because it’s now widely agreed there is no “safe” level of lead for human beings.
It’s still possible to buy and install lead flashing. But just because it’s still available doesn’t mean you should use it, because the risks of working with lead are considerable. There are documented cases of poorly installed lead flashing causing contamination of rainwater. Lead flashing should NEVER be used near where potable water is collected.
Lead flashing also poses potential risks to the installers, requiring the use of protective gloves and masks which add complexity to an already difficult task.
Evo Building Products believe that lead free is the way to go, and further development of our roof flashing range has lead to the creation of newer alternatives Smartform and Dakaflash (Similar to Wakaflex, which was introduced to Australia 12 years ago). Created to possess the same flexible qualities of lead based flashing, these products are lightweight and don’t require any specialist tools, so they’re easy to install. They pose no danger to water runoff or to the installer unlike lead.
If you have any questions at all about the benefits of lead free roof flashing please contact one of our experts on (02) 9666 1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org