Lead contamination in drinking water

Simple ways to prevent contamination – Health Canada limits the lead content in drinking water at 10 parts per billion in a sample of water. Therefore, the municipal water supply contains almost no lead. So, how does occur the lead contamination and how can we protect ourselves?

Harmful effects on health despite many advantages

Malleable, ductile, affordable and easy to solder, lead is used in plumbing since antiquity. However, it is very harmful to human health. Some historians even pretend that lead contamination could be partly responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire!

A small amount of lead in the blood affects human health to varying degrees. Between 10 and 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood can cause harmful effects on children neurobehavioral and cognitive systems and the developing fetus while a rate of more than 40 micrograms may interfere with the production of red blood cells. Cases of lead poisoning, at very low doses, are difficult to identify, and that is why very few are listed in Canada.

Lead contamination

Contamination occurs within buildings. Lead can be found in some connections, plumbing and welding accessories. It mainly occurs when water remains stagnant for more than 6 hours in lines where there is presence of lead, which is then dissolved in water. Hotter is the water, higher is its dissolving power.

Older homes, especially those built before 1955, are more at risk because water connections were then made of lead. Since then, the requirements governing the use of lead in plumbing and standards are constantly evolving. Recently, in 2014, the lead concentration in faucets and plumbing fixtures for the distribution of water for human consumption was reduced to 0.25%.

Safety measures

Domestic equipment’s exist to decontaminate water; including carbon filters installed directly on the tap, reverse osmosis water filtration system and distillation units. Some of these equipment are expensive and require regular maintenance.

It is recommended to perform these simple things that make a difference:

  • Let the water run a few minutes after a disuse period of 6 hours;
  • Use cold water for cooking;
  • Regularly clean the faucet aerator.
How to identify a lead connection

Find the water main shut-off valve of the building. Then observe the pipe: Lead is gray, it has no resonance and it gets scratched easily. It does not attract a magnet.

Feel free to call a specialist to identify plumbing lines at risk!

Source: Health Canada

The use of lead-free products in plumbing

Lead-free products: New requirements – In Quebec, since May First 2014, it is prohibited to install valves and other plumbing fixtures containing more than 0.25% in lead concentration. These new requirements are detailed in Chapter III, Plumbing, of the Quebec Construction Code and based on the 2012 edition of CSA B125.1 and B125.3. These measures seek to reduce the presence of lead in drinking water, which is harmful to health.

List of products affected and not affected by changes

For now, only products used for drinking water intended for human consumption are subject to these new requirements:

  • Delivery of water troughs fittings
  • Delivery of water fittings for kitchen sinks
  • Sinks and tubs
  • Shut-off valves
  • Automatic compensation valves (excluding showers)
  • Power shut-off valves
  • Integrated mixers operated by temperature

Products dedicated to the distribution of drinking water not intended for human consumption are not affected:

  • Automatic compensation taps wall mounted shower systems
  • Supply fittings for baths and showers
  • Supply fittings for bidets
  • Supply fittings for washers
  • Shut-off valves for humidifiers
  • Supply fittings for mop sinks
  • Drain cocks forlawn and sediment
  • Rolling feed supply fittings and self-closing
  • Shower heads
  • Hand showers
  • Body Sprays
  • Anti-siphon supply valves
  • Solenoid and flush valves
  • Thermal expansion relief valves
  • Trap primers
  • All other products not covered by CSA B125.1 /.3
Lead-free backflow prevention device:  mandatory from 2017

Pressure reducing valves and backflow preventers for area protection or premise isolation will be added to the list of specified equipment in 2017.

This is why we now recommend installing backflow prevention devices that have less than .25% in lead content on all drinking water plumbing systems.

Backflo Shop has access to several brands and models of lead-free backflow prevention devices.

Ask our experts to help you select the appropriate device!