|, 2000, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Government Policies on Lead in Drinking Water in Australia
Comments and collation
of policy extracts by Elizabeth O'Brien,
It is unacceptable for public authorities to turn their interest and funds away from the lead issue without having implemented their own policies. What happened to the recommendations of the National Strategy in Reducing Lead Exposure in Australia, to "Implement a pilot program for testing lead in first flush drinking water, rainwater tanks and drinking fountains; conduct education programs to inform home handy persons of the dangers in using lead solder in plumbing and review drinking water guidelines for lead in context of an overall lead reduction strategy" ??? The LEAD Group Inc. invites anyone to show that any single lead in drinking water strategy planned in the following 5 government policies has been carried out adequately and to completion.
Further, on the basis of one Victorian study that found one in every four rainwater tanks tested in Victoria had lead levels at or exceeding the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, and knowing that 13% of all Australian households use rainwater tanks for drinking water [Reference: "Guidance on the Use of Rainwater Tanks" by David Cunliffe (1998)], it can be extrapolated that over 600,000 Australians have too much lead in their drinking water.
When one in four tanks is likely to be lead contaminated, a much greater effort at education, lead testing of tankwater and blood lead testing of exposed people needs to be undertaken.
REFERENCE 1: "Lead Issues Paper Strategy Framework" in NSW Lead Issues Paper – March 1993, published by NSW EPA and NSW Health Department, Sydney, March 1993.
1. To implement a comprehensive program for the reduction of lead from its many sources focusing on [among other things]:
2 . To implement a comprehensive program for the continuing reduction of historical lead contamination by addressing the following issues [among others]:
REFERENCE 2: "Recommendations for a National Strategy" in Reducing Lead Exposure in Australia - July 1993, Final Report Vol 1 - Pages ES 7 To ES 20. Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council. Published by Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1994.
Recommendation 8: Implement pilot program for testing lead in first flush drinking water, rainwater tanks and drinking fountains. Conduct education program to inform home handypersons of the dangers in using lead solder in plumbing. Review drinking water guidelines for lead in context of an overall lead reduction strategy.
Rationale : Despite widespread confidence among water industry professionals about the low level of lead in Australian water, there is virtually no evidence about the lead content of first flush water in homes and drinking fountains. Testing of drinking water is almost exclusively, focused on water sources and distribution systems. If lead is present in drinking water, it will not be detected in these tests because its likely source is household plumbing; commonly lead solder used with brass fittings or copper pipes.
Even where tap water is tested for lead, standard procedures involve measurement of running water. Lead from plumbing shows up in first flush tap water, that is, water drawn after the system has been standing idle for several hours or overnight. A small test in several Australian cities found that although most samples had very low lead content, a very high level (up to 64 µg/litre) was found in some cases. Given the hazard posed to children by levels of lead in drinking water, there are good reasons for immediately undertaking a pilot sampling program to determine lead levels from first flush water in homes and drinking fountains used by children.
Although the contribution of lead in water to blood lead level is relatively small in comparison with that of lead in petrol, an overall lead strategy should examine the contribution from all sources and the potential for reduction. The potential for reducing lead exposure from each source must be examined. Only by considering all sources together will it be possible to determine the appropriate guideline for lead in water. (For impacts, see page ES-34.)
Principal agencies: NHMRC, Water Resources Council. Others involved: Water authorities, State health departments, consumer organisations.
Timetable: Immediately develop and implement pilot drinking water testing program. Immediately prepare and implement public education program on dangers of lead solder use. Immediately begin examination of maximum lead intake to achieve goal, including contribution of drinking water.
REFERENCE 3: NSW Lead Management Action Plan (LMAP). Published for the *Interdepartmental Lead Taskforce by NSW Environment Protection Authority, Sydney, November 1994.
* Agencies represented on the Interdepartmental Lead Taskforce:
N.B. the number of each strategy was assigned by the Lead Advisory Service – in the original document, the 125 strategies appear as dot points underneath each sub-heading.
3.11 Lead in Water and Wastewater
1. Data collection
Strategy 110. Conduct a water sampling program which includes the following areas:
(Strategy implementation: Water Board and other local water authorities through the provision of research grants funded by appropriate Commonwealth and State authorities. NSW Public Works to develop a program for rural water authorities)
(Strategy implementation: Data collection undertaken by water authorities and NSW Public Works. EPA to incorporate data into the State of the Environment Report)
2. Materials and Standards
(Strategy implementation: industry, water authorities and Standards Australia, co-ordinated by the Department of Consumer Affairs)
Strategy 119. Develop comprehensive general and targeted education campaigns which:
Investigate the feasibility of distributing this material with water bills and at plumbing hardware centres.
(Strategy implementation: water authorities in consultation with the Lead Reference Centre)
4. Water Supply and Water Treatment
Strategy 120. Develop exposure reduction strategies, especially for domestic situations, where indicated necessary by the outcome of the recommended data collection program.
(Strategy implementation: Undertaken by the relevant water authorities or Public Works in rural regions. Prevention strategies which focus on education should be developed by the Lead Reference Centre with input from relevant authorities)
(Strategy implementation: Water Board/local water authorities/local government)
(Strategy implementation: Water Board/local water authorities)
(Strategy implementation: Water Board/local water authorities)
REFERENCE 4: "Recommendations for Strategies, Priorities and Guidelines" in Report of the Select Committee upon Lead Pollution" December 1994. Published by the *Select Committee upon Lead Pollution, NSW Parliament, Sydney, December 1994.
*The Select Committee upon Lead Pollution was comprised of the following Members of Parliament:
81. That tank water in rural communities and on individual rural properties be randomly tested for lead content by an appropriate authority.
Lead in Plumbing Products
Other Lead Exposures
The Lead Education Working Group Report recommends "that Local Government includes in all Building Applications, information on lead paint and plumbing issues. This issue should be developed by the institute of Environmental Health with input from the proposed Lead Reference Centre, Councils, Community, Industry and the EPA."
REFERENCE 5: Resolution of the Organisation For Economic Cooperation And Development (OECD) Council Concerning the Declaration on Risk Reduction for Lead OECD Document number: C(96)42/FINAL (adopted by the Council at its 869th Session on 20 February 1996 [C/M(96)4/PROV]).
DECLARATION on Risk Reduction for Lead
THE GOVERNMENTS OF OECD MEMBER COUNTRIES,1
1 The mention of "Governments’ is deemed to also apply to the European Communities.
DECLARE THAT THEY WILL:
FURTHER DECLARE THAT THE OECD SHOULD:
… (9) Review progress by Member countries in pursuance of this Declaration three years after adoption and assess the need for further action; …
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