There is no evidence of adverse effects on human health from the consumption of lead in drinking water in Australia. However, lead is not considered to be beneficial or necessary for humans; therefore public health experts recommend Australians take every opportunity to limit potential exposure from all sources.
The concentration of lead set in the drinking water guidelines is very conservative so that it can be sure to protect the most vulnerable people, such as very young children and pregnant women.
There have been instances of detection of lead levels above Australia’ drinking water guidelines and, as a precautionary approach, enHealth has issued household good practice guidelines to assist Australians in minimising their exposure to lead in drinking water, particularly when drinking water from old taps.
enHealth have suggested these simple precautionary measures to ensure that lead levels in drinking water are as low as possible.
Elevated blood lead levels are rarely found to be related to lead exposure from drinking water and it is extremely unlikely that lead from drinking water, even over a lifetime, would cause clinical lead toxicity.
I welcome work being undertaken by the Australian Building Codes Board to examine the issue of the level of lead in plumbing fixtures in line with international best practice.
Further information on lead in plumbing products is available on the enHealth Statement on Lead in Plumbing Products available from the department’s web page.