QUESTION: How can we have our Perth tank water tested for heavy metal contamination? 16 Apr 2008 WA, Australia
We have a rainwater tank which we use for drinking. Our house is relatively new (7 years old) and has a zincalume roof. How can we have the water tested for heavy metal contamination and is there a filter we can install (on the tank intake or outlet) to remove heavy metals. At the moment we put the water through a filter jug prior to consumption.
ANSWER: 16 Apr 2008
Dear Dr Binns,
I will answer your question mainly in relation to lead (because lead is what we do here) but you can always enquire about testing for other heavy metals at the lab.
The fastest and best way to know whether your drinking water has a lead problem is to ask the doctor for blood lead tests for all who drink it. If the doctor marks the pathology request for Medicare Bulk Bill, the testing is also free.
The Chemistry Centre in Perth (WA-only freecall 1800 666 322) does water lead analysis but I'm told by another caller that they have a minimum analysis cost of $150 so you may be interested (especially if you're not in a hurry for the results as the kit will be posted from Sydney and you'll post the samples back to Sydney Analytical Laboratories (SAL)) in The LEAD Group's DIY-sampling kit.
You can purchase a 2-sample Water test kit for $100 or $85 for LEAD Group members, test the unfiltered tankwater with one of the sample bottles and wait for the result in order to figure out whether you need to test the zincalume or some other component of the rainwater collection area. If it's clear by your first water lead result, that you need to remove something leaded from the rainwater collection area but you can't afford to do so, then you could use the second sample bottle to test the filtered water to determine whether it is doing a good enough job of removing lead from the rainwater. The Brita filter jug is the only one for which we have lead-filtering efficacy results in our library and it successfully removes approximately 95% of the lead. Some water filters are simply not designed to remove lead so I could not say whether your filter jug was adequate or not. Even if the filter jug is designed to remove lead, it is only effective if the filter is changed at the recommended intervals.
Reverse osmosis filters are also recommended for removing lead. In addition to the information you've already provided, you can purchase one of our kits by phoning or emailing with your credit card number and expiry date and your phone number. You could ask SAL (phone Lance Smith on 02 9838 8903) about the extra cost of analysing other heavy metals in any sample and you'd need to work out WHICH other metals you want to test for - zinc being the only obvious one from what I know of your situation.
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