Is your family at risk of drinking and using water that may contain dissolved lead? How would you know? The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee released a statement last year that addresses how lead plumbing products can affect you.
How Safe is Drinking Water in Australia?
The enHealth statement affirms that across Australia, the drinking water that is supplied to homes and other buildings is treated, regulated and monitored by state and territory health legislation, and therefore is safe. It is not common to find water service pipes containing lead in Australia, however, the naturally occuring metal can be present in some plumbing products, such as brass fittings. Since these products are used in household or public drinking water systems, such as water fountains, there is a slight risk of the lead dissolving into the water.
Although lead-based solder is no longer allowed to be used by licensed plumbers, there are still older homes and buildings with copper piping and lead-based solder, which can pose a risk to its occupants.
How does Lead Dissolve into Water?
A plumbing fitting that contains lead, which is in contact with stagnant water for long periods of time, can result in lead dissolving into the water. However, different water systems are more susceptible to dissolving lead. When compared to cold water systems, hot water or rainwater systems may cause more metals to dissolve into the water, due to the heat or the acidity of the water.
How does Lead Affect your Health?
The health risk varies from person to person, and is also determined by the circumstances in which the lead was consumed. According to the World Health Organisation, high lead exposure can causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. A largely contributing factor to the risk on a person’s health is a person’s age. Infants and children are especially vulnerable as lead in high doses can impair their brain development.
In Australia, the main sources of lead exposure are from working with lead, exposure to old lead-based paint, recreational shooting, hobbies involving lead, and some alternative medicines. Therefore, the majority of Australians should not worry about lead in their drinking water.
However, since there is a small risk, enHealth supports every effort to reduce the level of lead in drinking water by engaging with Australian plumbing authorities to ensure that plumbing products do not negatively affect the water quality or people’s health.
If you are unsure about your own plumbing, contact Inspector Jet for an examination of your water system.