In Australia lead is used in the manufacture of some plumbing products, such as brass fittings. These products are widely used in drinking water systems in homes and commercial and industrial buildings. Lead can be released from some brass plumbing fittings, either as small particles or through dissolving into the drinking water, particularly where the water has been sitting in contact with these brass plumbing products for long periods.
Hot water systems may contribute even more dissolved lead, and other metals, into drinking water due to the heating process. In some cases, rainwater systems have also been found to dissolve metals from plumbing products, owing to the slight acidity of rainwater.
Householders can proactively reduce their potential exposure to lead in drinking water through the following measures:
- Only use water from cold-water taps for drinking and cooking
- Flush cold-water taps used for drinking and cooking for up to 30 seconds first thing in the morning to draw fresh water through the tap
- After long periods of non-use, such as return from holidays, flush cold-water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes; this ‘flushed’ water can be collected and used for washing up or watering plants
- When renovating or building always choose plumbing products that have been certified with the WaterMark Scheme and AS/NZS 4020:2005; and/or have low lead content or are lead free.
For more information on lead in plumbing products, please see the Environmental Health Standing Committee’s (enHealth) statement on lead in drinking water from plumbing products.