Is there lead in my tap water?

Worried about lead contamination in your drinking water? Here’s the top signs you're drinking water may be contaminated with lead, and the best water filter to remove lead

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. It has become a problem in modern times because of its extensive use in manufacturing, mining, recycling activities, smelting and in developing countries, because of the use of leaded fuel. Lead is everywhere: in car batteries, house paint, ceramic, toys, cookware, jewellery, cosmetics, and even traditional medicines.  

Lead typically finds its way in our bodies through:

  • the food we eat (if food is cooked or stored in pewter, crystal glassware, pottery or cans from overseas) 
  • the water we drink, and
  • the air we breathe (for example, household dust or chipping, old paint). 

For women, some cheap cosmetics may contain lead and absorb through the skin. Particular examples are eye-liners manufactured in Asian, Middle-Eastern and African countries have been found to contain lead.

Some people may also be at higher risk of lead poisoning due to their hobbies or occupation. For example, people who work in auto-repair, mining, battery manufacturing, painting and construction, or those whose hobbies include home renovations or restorations. 

By far the most common way to ingest lead, however, is through our tap water.

Who is at risk of lead in tap water?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no known “safe” level of lead. Young children in particular are more vulnerable as they absorb 4-5 times more lead than adults. Once lead enters the body, it does not get metabolised but accumulates in the tissues such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. Lead stored in the bones may be remobilised during pregnancy, affecting the foetus’ growth and development. 

Lead in the body leads to serious health consequences. In children it leads to irreversible neurological and behavioural issues. In adults it leads to kidney damage, hypertension and for pregnant women, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or low birth weight.

A study in 2016 found that lead levels in domestic taps across New South Wales were so high they exceeded the acceptable levels set out in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Two years later  a homeowner in Melbourne discovered lead levels in her drinking water that were ten times the allowable limit. 

The problem is not so much the drinking water itself, but the taps and plumbing products used throughout Australia. According to experts, plumbing products contain up to 4.5 per cent lead, contributing to the lead contamination in people’s homes.

Lead brass water meters are also very common across Australia, and depending on how old they are and their manufacturing, they will also contribute to high lead levels in the water.

What are the signs of lead in tap water?

It is difficult to know if you have lead in your tap water without getting it professionally tested. But here are the most common ways that will help you determine if lead might be present:

If you live in a house with old pipes or plumbing

Lead in Australian drinking water leaches from brass taps and old plumbing. The best defence against this is to install stainless steel taps and products around your home. This may not be a cost-effective solution, however. 

Our top tip is to let the water run for two to three minutes first thing in the morning or after a few hours of not using your tap. This is because water sits inside the barrel of your tap and if it sits there for a long time, for example, overnight, the water has enough time to accumulate lead and this will find its way into your drinking water. 

If you’re worried about wasting water, our tip is to use this water for non-food or drink related purposes, such as watering your plants. 

Another tip is not to drink from the hot water tap, as the heating process will dissolve more metals in the water, including lead.

The good news is in recent months, building authorities have been pushing to replace billions of dollars’ worth of plumbing by phasing out their use in new homes. 

The Australian Building Codes Board is about to release a new National Construction Code, which will phase out high-lead taps, mixers and water dispensers over three years and replace them with low-lead alternatives. The only down-side for homeowners is that the low-lead alternatives are more expensive, and could cost householders $2.1 billion over a decade to fully replace.

The taste of the water

Another way you might know if lead could be in your drinking water is the taste. Australian tap water typically contains copper along with lead because of the brass fittings and plumping products used in households. So a slight metallic or salty taste may be present. Again, it’s difficult to know for sure just by taste alone as other heavy metals could also be contributing to the metallic taste, but this is a good indicator, nonetheless.

Physical symptoms

If you start experiencing unexplained headaches or joint and muscle pains, your tap water may be the culprit. Unfortunately, if you start experiencing these symptoms it may be that the lead has already sufficiently accumulated in your body. If you are experiencing symptoms, please see your doctor and consider getting your water tested.

How to reduce the risk of lead exposure from tap water?

If you don’t have a water filter, the best way to reduce lead in your water is as stated above – don’t let your water become stagnant and flush water out before using it in food preparation and for drinking. 

If you have infants and very young children, it is even more important to reduce the level of lead as infants consume more water relative to their body weight through their formula.

Another way to reduce lead is to ensure you choose plumping products that have been certified to WaterMark and AS/NZS 4020:2005 standards, when building or renovating your home. Contact your local plumber for more detailed advice on choosing the right products to reduce lead contamination of your drinking water.

The most cost-effective way of removing lead from your tap water, however, is by investing in a quality water filter, such as the TAPP EcoPro.

Best water filter to remove lead from tap water?

Our TAPP EcoPro water filter is specifically designed to remove lead from water. The activated carbon block used in our filter is extremely porous, meaning that it is highly effective at pulling a large number of contaminants from the water, including over 95% of lead. Read more about how activated carbon filters contaminants from the water. [link to article “What is activated carbon and how does it remove toxins from the water”]

What’s more, the TAPP EcoPro is easy to install and maintain, with no plumbing or special equipment required. Simply screw onto your existing tap and get instant access to purified water. It is also competitively priced, starting at $159 for an annual pack, and with our 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try it with confidence knowing you are investing in you and your family’s health and well-being.

Try TAPP EcoPro water filter, risk-free today.  

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