Concerns mount over lead taps
A review of building product regulations will be thrown open to public consultation early next year.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is reviewing quality assurance in the sector after growing concerns about imported products, including taps leaching high lead levels into drinking water.
After testing a sample of taps, Master Plumbers has warned of a wider problem with lead-leaching fixtures and said it felt MBIE’s review was too broad to address what it believed was a health issue.
MBIE said work was on track with its review to provide advice on changes which would ‘‘shift the system from indirect to direct regulations of building products’’.
An MBIE spokesperson said reviewing building products and their entry to the country was a big task.
‘‘Due to the complexity of the building product supply chain, the number of products on the market and the number of stakeholders involved both in New Zealand and overseas, and the fact that the performance of products cannot be separated from their use in a building, any increased regulation and its impact need to be carefully considered.’’
The ministry did not think a review of plumbing products was warranted at this stage.
Master Plumbers chief executive Greg Wallace said it did its testing after several incidents concerning lead contamination in Australia. Of five taps, it found one – an imported tap bought online – was leaching lead into the water at 70 per cent above New Zealand’s maximum.
The key problem was New Zealand relied on importers voluntarily verifying that their products met New Zealand water standards, Wallace said.
‘‘If you take the analogy of what happened with the reinforcing steel issue in the building sector, if you rely on the manufacturers to do the verification, it’s been proven that failures will occur.’’
A spokesman for the Minister of Health said the matter was one for Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa and MBIE.
Lead contamination is less of a health issue in New Zealand since it was removed from petrol. Water pipes are generally now made from stainless steel and the biggest source of lead contamination is now soil contamination from flaking lead paint.
But people who live in areas where water is slightly acidic are usually advised to run their taps daily to flush heavy metals out of their pipes.
Plumbing products are part of a wider review of building products that is due out for consultation next year.