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New evidence shows lead still present in NZ's drinking water

12 July 2021
lead in drinking water

TVNZ 1's Sunday programme on 11 July profiled the risks associated with lead in our drinking water and featured Master Plumbers CEO Greg Wallace.

Master Plumbers, Gasfitters & Drainlayers is renewing calls to ban lead in drinking water, with further evidence that New Zealanders are still at risk from this invisible poison. 

CE Greg Wallace says lead has been removed from paint and fuel, but the Government continues to ignore the potential health risk being caused by lead in household drinking water. 

“The Australians are taking a much harder line on this, and are looking at introducing zero-lead tapware and brass plumbing products. Yet the New Zealand Government doesn’t seem to be interested in taking stronger steps to protect New Zealanders.”

Greg Wallace says Master Plumbers has yet again produced proof that it is possible to buy tapware in this country that contains lead at levels that far exceed New Zealand’s drinking-water standard limits of 10 micrograms per litre.

In a random sample conducted this month, Master Plumbers tested five taps purchased online. It found three of the taps contained lead above the allowable limit—with one a massive 11 times over.

“The Government has to stop ignoring this evidence. Lead is a cumulative toxin, which makes ongoing exposure through drinking water of particular concern. The World Health Organisation has ruled there is no known safe blood lead concentration for humans, yet here we are in New Zealand ignoring this health issue.

“Babies and children are most vulnerable, and exposure can lead to serious, irreversible neurological and behavioural effects.”

He says the Ministry of Health’s answer to the problem is to run a kitchen tap for 30 seconds every morning to get rid of lead dissolved in the water.

“Taking this approach does nothing to address the risk. It might reduce lead contamination risks, but it does not remove lead from drinking water.

“Surely, the real answer is for New Zealand to say we don’t want any lead in our drinking water.  Like the Australians we should be looking to move to zero-lead tapware and brass plumbing products.”

Greg Wallace says the Government must also introduce a mandatory third-party testing and verification regime for plumbing products to ensure they actually comply.

“Without this, there is no way for the public to know the taps they drink from are safe.”

A review of New Zealand’s plumbing product standards is among the recommendations made in the report on the health system response to the recent lead contamination of Waikoutaiti’s drinking water.

“Master Plumbers wants to see this happen as a matter of urgency,” says Wallace.

“Plumbing products installed in our homes and public water supply should be fit for use—end of story.”

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