Despite the Romans' common use of lead pipes, their aqueducts rarely poisoned people. Unlike other parts of the world where lead pipes cause poisoning, the Roman water had so much calcium in it that a layer of plaque prevented the water contacting the lead itself. What often causes confusion is the large amount of evidence of widespread lead poisoning, particularly amongst those who would have had easy access to piped water. This was an unfortunate result of lead being used in cookware and as an additive to processed food and drink, for example as a preservative in wine. Roman lead pipe inscriptions provided information on the owner to prevent water theft.
Most large cities today pipe solid wastes to sewage treatment plants in order to separate and partially purify the water, before emptying into streams or other bodies of water. For potable water use, galvanized iron piping was commonplace in the United States from the late 1800s until around 1960. After that period, copper piping took over, first soft copper with flared fittings, then with rigid copper tubing utilizing soldered fittings.
When a person has a blockage in their sewage system they often try to fix it themselves by adding an acid or a base such as Drano in an attempt to dissolve or dislodge the problem. These chemicals can get into the plumbers eyes when the sewage is splashed during the repair. The plumbers skin during the repair does come into contact with the sewage water. The owner of the toilet might not report to the plumber they have already tried Drano a highly caustic base .