Young Children At Risk Of Lead Poisoning - Run Taps For 30 Seconds Before Drinking

By November 26, 2018
Young Children At Risk Of Lead Poisoning - Run Taps For 30 Seconds Before Drinking  California Environmental Health Tracking Program

The Australian federal government's Department of Health, has recently issued a guidance statement about the risks of lead poisoning from plumbing fittings and a warning has been issued to all Australians, to run taps for 30 seconds or more before drinking.

The statement issued, conveyed that young children that drink water prepared with lead-contaminated water are at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume compared to the size of their bodies, making them more susceptible to absorbing and retaining lead.

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s statement on the "Evidence on the effects of lead on human health" supports reducing the amount of lead in the environment as much as possible to reduce the risk of harm from lead exposure, especially for infants and children.

To reduce potential exposure to lead in drinking water, it is suggested to do the following:

• using water from cold taps only for drinking and cooking
• flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 30 seconds first thing in the morning to draw fresh water through the tap
• flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes after long periods of non-use, such as return from holidays; this ‘flushed’ water can be collected and used for washing up
• choosing plumbing products that have been certified to WaterMark and AS/NZS 4020:2005; and/or have low lead content or are lead free, when renovating or building.

There is no need for households to have their water tested for lead. The recommendation is to follow the good practice measures above. By following these measures you can also reduce your potential exposure to other metals in plumbing, such as copper and nickel.

Signs Of Lead Poisoning

Young children with lead poisoning don't show any signs of being sick, so it's important to eliminate lead risks within the environment.

When symptoms of lead poisoning, they usually appear as:

  • irritability or behavioural problems
  • difficulty concentrating
  • headaches
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • sluggishness or fatigue
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting or nausea
  • constipation
  • pallor (pale skin) from anemia
  • metallic taste in mouth
  • muscle and joint weakness or pain
  • seizures

These symptoms also can indicate a wide variety of other illnesses, so if your child has any of them, talk to your doctor. A blood test may be necessary to look for lead poisoning or other health problems.

Treatment For Lead Poisoning

Treatment for lead poisoning varies depending on how much lead is in the blood. Small amounts often can be treated rather easily; the most important part of therapy is reduction of lead exposure. Gradually, as the body naturally eliminates the lead, the level of lead in the blood will fall.Calcium, iron, and vitamin C are important parts of a healthy diet and also help to decrease the way the body absorbs lead. It may be recommended that children take supplements if there's not enough intake in their diet.

In Australia and across the world, lead is still used in the manufacture of a range of plumbing products, such as brass fittings. These products are widely used in drinking water systems in homes, buildings and associated water supply points, such as drinking water fountains

enHealth is engaging with Australian plumbing authorities to ensure plumbing products in contact with drinking water do not adversely affect water quality and people’s health.

The installation of plumbing fittings in Australia is overseen by State and Territory plumbing regulatory agencies. These agencies are now collectively working to address the issue of lead in plumbing products at the national level, through the Australian Building Codes Board.

For detailed information, please read the following: Guidance Statement on Lead In Drinking Water From Some Plumbing Products

References:

  • Guidance Statement on Lead in drinking water from some plumbing products, EnHealth, The Department Of Health
  • McCleary, Adam "Urgent warning for Australians to run the tap for 30 seconds before drinking the water or risk LEAD POISONING", Daily Mail Australia, 24 November 2018
  • Vyas, T, Shayan "Lead Poisoning", Kids Health. 15 February 2018