In response to the recent conversations and media coverage of the lead issues in Flint, Michigan, we are including information for both consumers and our members in regards to lead in drinking water.
Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. Lead contamination can enter the drinking water supply at any point in the water delivery system and commonly occurs through leaching from old lead service connections, pipes or lead solder in pipes in older homes and communities.
Lead is a metal that has historically been used in the plumbing and waterworks industry. Almost 4 decades ago when industry learned that lead could dissolve into the water supply from the pipes and fittings, it was decided to limit the amount of lead used in alloys and materials in the water sector. Today that limit is 0.25% as defined by the NSF 372 Standard.
CWQA's Position on it:
Scientists and toxicologists would correctly state that no amount of lead consumed is good for the human body. As such, any attempts to remove it from the water supply is something that the industry would support. CWQA’s manufacturer members have certified products that comply with the NSF standards for the removal of lead.
How it impacts our members:
CWQA members are your water treatment experts. Lead in municipal water can be removed by applying an NSF 53 certified product that removes lead. CWQA members are trained to work with the local municipal and provincial authorities to help in the management of lead in the drinking water.
What is CWQA doing about it?
CWQA staff assisted in the development of the NSF 372 standards that has been applied and referenced to limit the content of lead in the water system. We have advocated on industry’s behalf to get water treatment as a requirement in the plumbing code. Whenever there is a lead incident in Canada, CWQA and its members are there to help the municipality, and the public health authorities. Safeguarding Canadians are our shared goal.
If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, the best course of action is first to assess the risk factors to you and your family. These include the following:
- The age of your home. Older homes may have lead service lines and plumbing, offering a source of the chemical.
- Has there been any water main construction in your area? Sometimes we see an increase of lead concerns in areas where the water mains have been replaced or disturbed. Contact your local municipality, for example, the City of Toronto, to inquire about water main work in your local area. The municipality can also alert you to any concerns locally.
- Do you have small children, toddlers or are pregnant? These age demographics are most susceptible to the effects on lead. The local schools are also testing and monitoring for lead, contact your local schools for any alerts or concerns as well.
- Have you had your drinking water tested? Contact your local health department. In Toronto, the Toronto Public Health Unit will test your water as part of a monitoring program. They can advise you on how this is done.
- If your water analysis has come back positive for lead, what are your options? Toronto’s water is generally safe, in some areas due to infrastructure concerns (which the City is working on) the solution in the short term may be a water treatment device to take the lead out of the drinking water system.
CWQA members are the companies that sell, service, supply, manufacture and distribute point of use and point of entry water treatment systems for residential, industrial, commercial and small system applications.
CWQA and its members are here to help!
For CWQA Members
Lead in Drinking Water
The Canadian Water Quality Association recommends point-of-use reverse osmosis, distillation and activated block carbon (for use only at pH 6.5 to 8.5) units to reduce lead in drinking water. Since the source of lead is usually the household plumbing or distribution system, a point-of-entry unit such as a water softener will only reduce the lead that is in the water that enters the home not, the lead leached between the softener and the tap. Lead removal at or closest to the point of use is the most effective strategy.
- If there is a customer concern regarding lead, have the home owner contact the local public health office or the municipality to have their water sampled. Ontario’s local Public Health Units have specific protocols and sampling procedures for this type of investigation.
- When the chemical results come back reporting an elevated concentration of lead in the drinking water, allow the Public Health officials to complete their investigation and monitoring to identify the source of the lead contamination.
- It is inevitable that the public will eventually come to water treatment professionals to address the lead in their drinking water if the concern persists.
- If a homeowner comes to you with concerns about lead and has identified the source via a Public Health Unit investigation, several technologies that treat drinking water in the home at its point‐of‐use or the point‐of‐entry have been proven to significantly reduce lead including reverse osmosis, distillation, cation exchange water softening, and solid block and pre‐coat adsorption filters.
- Know what levels of lead you are dealing with. Water can be tested by the local health units, the municipality, the MOE (Ministry of the Environment) or an accredited laboratory. Use the lab certificate and results to gauge the concern. As well as the concentrations of other chemicals in the sample water.
- When the water is tested that the source of lead contamination is found outside the home, a cation exchange water softener can reduce the level of ionic lead. For insoluble lead particles, this method is less effective and a softener in concert with an alternative device can be utilized including solid block and pre‐coat adsorption filters, distillation, or reverse osmosis. Remember that lead is a drinking water health issue.
- If the lead is entering the system from household plumbing, consumers can consider point‐of‐use alternatives such as reverse osmosis, distillation or solid block or pre-coated adsorption filter at a primary drinking water source such as at the kitchen sink.
- Check all manufacturers’ literature, certification under CSA, NSF and WQA, and maintenance specifications.