Master Plumbers concerned about lead remnants in taps

When faucets with lead components corrode, small amounts of lead leak into the drinking water.  (File photo)

Phil Reid / Stuff

When faucets with lead components corrode, small amounts of lead leak into the drinking water. (File photo)

More than half of a selection of five faucets purchased by chief plumbers and tested for lead residue showed levels above the government’s drinking water standard, and the group is urging the government to regulate.

A failed faucet had 11 times more lead in the water than the norm, it said.

The plumber’s member organization bought five faucets online and three of the products seeped lead out, it said. Absorbing lead can have lasting effects on the brain and nervous system, especially in young children. The World Health Organization has not considered any level of exposure to be safe.

It has been banned from paint and fuel, but not completely from taps.

Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers chief executive Greg Wallace wants the government to enact “zero tolerance” laws for lead in new faucets. He said New Zealand had one of the world’s highest permitted levels of lead in drinking water.

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“We want the government to match the soon-to-be-enforced Australian level of 0.024 micrograms of lead per liter, which is as far as possible to zero,” Wallace said.

The standard here is 0.1 mg/L.

“Australia has lowered the allowable level, as has America. The risk is that we will be the dumping ground for these products made with lead components that other countries now don’t allow,” Wallace said.

“I hope to have grandchildren with my family one day and I don’t want them exposed to lead in their water.”

Master Plumbers sent the purchased faucets to Eurofins Laboratory to test for lead when water passed through them.

Master Plumbers/Things

Master Plumbers sent the purchased faucets to Eurofins Laboratory to test for lead when water passed through them.

He said builders were increasingly buying faucets and having them installed by a plumber.

“These fixtures often come in an unlabeled white box, sometimes with instructions that are not in English and no information about whether they have iron in them. We have plumbers unknowingly place faucets that could be unhealthy for the family that would use it and that’s not fair,” he said.

In early February, residents of Waikouaiti, Karitane and Hawksbury Village in East Otago were told not to use their tap water after elevated levels of lead were detected in the water supply. The infrastructure, like other areas, had pipe connections made with lead components.

A review of New Zealand’s sanitary product standards is one of the recommendations in the report on the health system’s response to recent lead contamination.

Professor Sally Gaw, head of environmental sciences at the University of Canterbury, wants lead from drinking water sanitation to be phased out.

CHECKPOINT/RNZ

It has been revealed that today’s warning to two residents of Otago towns not to drink tap water due to possible lead contamination came a month after the results of the sampling were sent to officials. First published: February 2021

She told Radio New Zealand in April, when the Department of Health recommended better regulation of drinking water in a report on lead levels that New Zealand’s aging water supply infrastructure was creating vulnerabilities.

Gaw also supported a call for laboratories that test drinking water to report all excessive contamination to the director general of health.

Wallace said the reason there was lead in the imported faucets was that it was malleable and cheaper than bronze and brass alloys.

The main problem was that New Zealand relied on importers to voluntarily check that their products met our standards, Wallace said.

The full report on iron levels in Waikouaiti’s drinking water will be released by Dunedin City Council shortly.

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