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Raising awareness of lead legislation
Published:  09 August, 2013

European legislation, which will cut the permissible levels of lead in drinking water, will come into force in December 2013. John Griggs, principal science officer for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering, is concerned that the new legislation may catch out some manufacturers.

At present, the allowance is 25 micrograms of lead to one litre of water; this will be reduced to 10 micrograms per litre. Lead is used in the manufacture of many plumbing pipes and fittings, including copper, brass and some plastics.

“Manufacturers and suppliers of plumbing materials need to be aware of the issue and action may need to be taken to ensure that their products meet all the relevant UK and European Legislation,” said Griggs. “Installers need to be conversant with the facts and not do anything that impacts upon the quality of the supplied water.”

Although the water supplied to a building may be ‘wholesome’, the plumbing fittings within the building can degrade the quality. Testing for levels of contaminants in drinking water will be carried out at the consumers' taps, not the boundary of the property.

There are health risks relating to the way lead can build up in the body. Infants and children are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead due to their low body mass and developing organs.

Griggs wants to hear from manufacturers involved with pipes and fittings to find out what they have done to reduce levels of lead in their products, and can be contacted on johng@ciphe.org.uk.