Widespread copper and lead contamination of household drinking water, New South Wales, Australia

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Abstract

This study examines arsenic, copper, lead and manganese drinking water contamination at the domestic consumer’s kitchen tap in homes of New South Wales, Australia. Analysis of 212 first draw drinking water samples shows that almost 100% and 56% of samples contain detectable concentrations of copper and lead, respectively. Of these detectable concentrations, copper exceeds Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) in 5% of samples and lead in 8%. By contrast, no samples contained arsenic and manganese water concentrations in excess of the ADWG. Analysis of household plumbing fittings (taps and connecting pipework) show that these are a significant source of drinking water lead contamination. Water lead concentrations derived for plumbing components range from 108 μg/L to 1440 μg/L (n=28, mean – 328 μg/L, median – 225 μg/L). Analysis of kitchen tap fittings demonstrates these are a primary source of drinking water lead contamination (n=9, mean – 63.4 μg/L, median – 59.0 μg/L). The results of this study demonstrate that along with other potential sources of contamination in households, plumbing products that contain detectable lead up to 2.84% are contributing to contamination of household drinking water. Given that both copper and lead are known to cause significant health detriments, products for use in contact with drinking water should be manufactured free from copper and lead.

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