A 2016 study by Macquarie University has found copper and lead contamination in tap water samples across New South Wales.
Of these detections, copper exceeds Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) in five per cent of the samples and lead in eight per cent.
Researchers asked 212 participants to draw samples from their kitchen tap after a ‘nine-hour stagnation period’, so basically in the morning after a night of no use. They found copper in nearly all of them while lead was present in 56 per cent of the households tested.
Macquarie University’s Paul Harvey says the occurrence and the concentration of these contaminants is concern for public health.
“As the sampling of household water took place across NSW, the widespread distribution of samples with elevated copper and lead concentrations demonstrates that this is not a spatially-isolated problem, and that domestic supplies across Australia are likely to be subject to similar issues,” Harvey says.
“There is a significant health risk associated with consumers, particularly infants consuming formula and pregnant women.”
According to the National Health Medical Research Council of Australia, drinking water with high levels of lead present can impact children’s brain development, while prolonged exposure to copper can lead to liver damage.
NSW Health drinking water recommendations suggest that if you haven’t used your pipes in a while you should flush your tap for a few minutes before use.
“To mitigate the risks, perhaps you might buy a filter that is efficient at removing heavy metals, for example,” suggests Harvey.