taken from the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) with the maximum level for lead (Pb) in water extracts from the taps being set at 0.01mg/L. Overseas the situation varies from country to country. In Europe, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, work together in a framework known as the 4MS Common Approach. References to maximum lead levels are covered in the document ‘Acceptance of Metallic Materials Used for Products in Contact with Drinking Water – 4MS Common Approach’. Typically, most alloys have a maximum lead level of 0.2%, but there are several exceptions that allow up to 3.5%. 17 In the USA, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) prescribes that only pipes, plumbing fixtures, fittings, etc that are considered lead-free, are allowed to be used in the installation or repair of public water systems and in the plumbing of residential or non-residential facilities providing water for human consumption. In 2011, the government changed the definition of lead free for pipes, pipe fittings, etc in the SDWA, from ‘containing not more than 8.0% lead’, to ‘not more than a weighted average of 0.25% lead when used with respect to wetted surfaces of pipe, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures’. 18
Also, as a prerequisite of gaining certification to the WaterMark, manufacturers need to have their products tested to AS/NZS 4020:2018 – Testing of products for use in contact with drinking water. 16 This standard specifies requirements for the suitability of products for use in contact with drinking water with regards to their effect on the quality of water. Extraction of metals is covered under clause 6.7, with limits of maximum allowable concentration of metals detailed in Table 2. These limits are
Will the standards around lead change in Australia?
The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has been investigating to what extent plumbing products and materials contribute to lead levels in drinking water that are in excess of ADWG requirements. The initial review was performed by the Macquarie University and amongst other findings, it stated that ‘brass components containing lead that are used in plumbing systems, can leach lead into drinking water’.
A key recommendation was that ‘only low lead or preferably lead-free plumbing components should be used during installation of drinking water systems’. 19 The ABCB is still considering this issue, and it is possible the National Construction Code (NCC), the WaterMark scheme, and other Australian Standards, could be amended to reduce the levels of lead used in plumbing materials.
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