Con­cerns mount over lead taps

The Press - - Business - Cather­ine Har­ris

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.

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