Lead dan­ger in tap wa­ter

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - JOHN ROLFE

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.

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