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Compartmentalization of production was marked by separate metal-manufacture companies specializing in lead piping, plumbing fixtures, and other nonporcelain components. Nowadays, international toilet companies such as Armitage Shanks, Ideal Standard, and Geberit have diversified to offer a wide range of toilet technologies and materials. Synthetic materials now predominate; piping is made of plastic and the “porcelain” is more likely to be polymer. Old and widely used lead piping has been condemned as a potential cause of poisoning. (Plumbing gets its name from plomb, the medieval word for lead, as plumbers were essentially lead workers.)
The thicknesses of the water pipe and tube walls can vary. Pipe wall thickness is denoted by various schedules or for large bore polyethylene pipe in the UK by the Standard Dimension Ratio (SDR), defined as the ratio of the pipe diameter to its wall thickness. Pipe wall thickness increases with schedule, and is available in schedules 20, 40, 80, and higher in special cases. The schedule is largely determined by the operating pressure of the system, with higher pressures commanding greater thickness. Copper tubing is available in four wall thicknesses: type DWV (thinnest wall; only allowed as drain pipe per UPC), type 'M' (thin; typically only allowed as drain pipe by IPC code), type 'L' (thicker, standard duty for water lines and water service), and type 'K' (thickest, typically used underground between the main and the meter). Because piping and tubing are commodities, having a greater wall thickness implies higher initial cost. Thicker walled pipe generally implies greater durability and higher pressure tolerances.
The most common residential drain to cause problems is the kitchen sink drain. Food particles, grease, soap or detergent build up can all, over time, slow down or completely block the flow of water down to the septic or sewer system. A garbage disposal as well as an installed dishwasher add more pipes to the mix which create more potential for clogs.