The Plumbing and Mechanical Advisory Council (PMAC) of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) has released a fact sheet on the challenges of lead in drinking water, what lead is, how it can affect a person’s health, and recommendations on how to manage lead in drinking water, after recent media attention.
In Canada, there is a maximum acceptable concentration of lead allowed in drinking water of five micrograms per litre or five parts per billion. Levels of lead should be kept as low as possible. Lead is a naturally occurring substance found in soil, food and the air. While lead can leach into drinking water from service lines and plumbing, the bulk of human exposure is from other sources, reports PMAC. The current Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standard for lead is 10 micrograms per litre or 10 parts per billion.
“In general, water that is treated and distributed in municipal systems is lead-free. Water leaves the municipal treatment plants and travels through the water mains lead-free. However, drinking water can come into contact with lead in the service lines (that connect each property to the water main). Lead can also be found in plumbing materials in the home, such as lead pipes, brass fittings, and lead solder,” explains PMAC.
They recommend that if water should be tested through a private laboratory to determine lead levels. A list of commercially licensed laboratories that test for lead in drinking water can be found on the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ website. Some municipalities and public health units have free testing in conjunction with a local waterworks department. In new installations, PMAC recommends flushing out pipes before drinking or cooking with any of the water from the tap
It is best to only use cold tap water for drinking, preparing infant formula or cooking, since hot water increases the leaching of lead and other metals from plumbing. Regularly clean aerators on taps used for drinking water and food preparation.
“If you opt to use a water treatment device, ensure that it is certified to remove lead from the drinking water. CSA B483.1 or NSF 53 certified devices that have specific lead removal claims developed. CSA B483.1 is referenced and supported in the plumbing code in all jurisdictions in Canada.