Lead danger in tap water
HOUSEHOLDS have been officially warned to run taps for 30 seconds before using water for drinking or cooking in the morning amid growing concern about lead poisoning from plumbing.
The Federal Government alert says bottle-fed babies are most at risk of health problems from water which has run through brass taps that contain lead.
An investigation by News Corp Australia can also reveal that the amount of lead in brass plumbing fittings will be slashed by as much as 94 per cent under new nationwide rules.
The moves have been made by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth), which represents Commonwealth, state and territory health departments plus the National Health and Medical Research Council.
A federal Health Department spokesman said enHealth’s “guidance statement” to not use hot tap water for drinking or cooking and to flush cold-water taps in the morning “acknowledges the risks associated with lead and the need to minimise an individual’s exposure as much as possible”.
It was released nearly six months ago, but not publicised.
Lead dissolves into water from brass plumbing fittings after lengthy contact.
The warnings also advise consumers to run cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about two to three minutes after coming back from a holiday.
The leaching can be more significant in hot water.
The statement’s strongest warning is for new parents, declaring “infants who drink formula prepared with leadcontaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size”.
“Infants and children are especially vulnerable as lead can impair brain development,” enHealth says.
Lead can also damage digestive, cardiovascular, renal and reproductive functions — and not just in the young.
The Government’s actions were triggered by contamination scares involving 80 bubblers in Geelong in Victoria with lead levels above the safe limit.
And the opening of Perth Children’s Hospital was delayed by nearly three years until May this year due to lead in tap water from brass fittings.