Most Australians will be aware of recent media reports concerning occurrences of, and the associated dangers of lead contamination in residential drinking water in Australia.

The source of the contamination is widely thought to be the lead content of a range of widely used brass plumbing fittings. Lead contained in the brass fittings can dissolve into the drinking water, particularly where water has been sitting in contact with brass fittings for long periods.

According to the World Health Organization, lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing foetus – there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe. Check out the WHO website for more information.

Lead exposure can cause a range of symptoms including headaches, vomiting, muscle pains and fatigue. Infants and children are especially vulnerable as lead can impair brain development, especially infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water.

Although the World Health Organisation guidelines state that no level of lead exposure is safe, Australian standards (AS 1834.1 for soldering materials and AS/NZS 4020:2005 for product testing) permit up to 4.5 percent lead content in brass fittings, compared to 0.25 percent in US and Canada.

If lead contamination in residential drinking water is a widespread issue, how come we are not testing for lead when we undertake our home inspections?  It seems like a potentially valuable addition to every home inspection business and even more valuable to every new home owner who needs peace of mind when drinking tap water. 

In the US, the Department of Public Health (DPH) suggests testing for lead at least once and in particular when planning pregnancy or a child under the age of 6 resides in the house. Additionally, if low pH is identified, test every 3-5 years. Testing should include a “First Draw sample” before water is run to test the plumbing and fixtures in the house and a “Flushed sample” after the plumbing system has been run to test the water prior to the house.

There is now a technology that can easily make these tests affordable and give you immediate results. Check out here what Optimos Solutions has to offer and stay tuned for future articles on this important topic.