A new warning says Australian households are being officially advised to run their taps for at least 30 seconds in the morning over fears about lead poisoning.
The alert was issued in July by enHealth but not widely publicised.
Lead is rarely used in water pipes in Australia, BUT it is still widely used in a “range of plumbing products” like brass fittings.
It can dissolve into drinking water “particularly where water has been sitting in contact with these brass plumbing products for long periods”.
What are the symptoms of lead exposure?
Lead exposure causes symptoms like muscle pains, fatigue, abdominal pains, headache, nausea and vomiting. Lead can cause problems and impair brain development in babies and children.
“Infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size,” the alert says.
While World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines state that no level of lead exposure is safe, Australian standards permit up to 4.5 per cent lead content in brass fittings, compared with 0.25 per cent in the US and Canada.
What can you do?
The enHealth alert says:
1. Use water from cold taps only for drinking and cooking
2. Running cold water taps for about 30 seconds first thing in the morning to draw fresh water through the tap” and run your taps “for about two to three minutes after long periods of non-use, such as when returning from holidays”.
3. You don't need to get your water tested for lead. “There is no need for households to have their water tested for lead,” reveals the study. “The recommendation is to follow the good practice measures above. By following these measures you can also reduce your potential exposure to other metals in plumbing, such as copper and nickel.”