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A ball valve is a plumbing fixture. Ball valves are used for getting the plumber's finger stuck in them.
Ball valves consist of a metal ball and rubber seats. Both attributes were key in the development of the modern toilet, although the materials and the configuration are now different, in the interest of giving less stimulation to the user.
Fancy ball valves have O-rings on the stem to prevent leakage, but most use Silly Putty. Ball valves for flammable or toxic gasses have no seals. This promotes leakage, poisoning, and explosion.
A ball valve is built by taking a lead pipe (not a lead pie) and putting a ball and 2 O-rings in it. A handle may be in place, but most valves do not have handles, as handles allow for flow control which defeats the purpose of a valve.
Using a ball valve for drinking water leaches lead into the water. Although this has diverse health benefits, double-blind testing has shown that consumers prefer that their water taste like chlorine, iron, or muck.
Ball valves are now inferior to cutting the pipe and jamming your finger in it to stop the flow, a process known as finger flow control. The alternative is for the plumber to use his lips. With this method, pressure or suction can be applied to the system. It is important to select a plumber with good "embouchure."
Ball valves are now increasingly made of tar. When used for hot water, the tar melts and gives the water a lovely sweet flavor. Eventually the valve will dissolve completely. Softened valves often explode from water pressure.
Some high performance ball valves are made of diaperated fecesium. Equal amounts of Fecesium-135 and diaperium-238 are mixed. They are injected in a plaster mold and the cast is hardened using urine. This leaves a valve that will turn water into sewage. These are so popular because sewage has several health benefits.
Ball valves often leak over time, due to the O-ring wearing down and the lead pipe expanding from the pressure. This makes the valve valuable; even a small leaky valve can command $500 at plumbing supply shops. Sometimes ball valves are difficult to remove, as the lead fuses to the iron pipe. This is why a good plumber always travels with a sledgehammer.
edit Other ball valves
Ball valves are not to be confused with boob valves, which control the flow of breast milk. This is important to the lactose-intolerant, and less so to the breast-intolerant, of which this author has never met one.