Australian parents have been warned of the potential risks of giving children tap water after a study uncovered widespread lead contamination in household plumbing.
More than half of tap water samples taken from households in NSW were found to contain lead, a study conducted by Macquarie University has revealed.
One in 12 exceeded the maximum amount of lead permitted by Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Plumbing and tap fittings have been identified as the major source of lead contamination, meaning even clean water is at risk of contamination, the researchers said.
Most at risk are young children and babies who drink formula made with tap water.
Lead exposure can have a serious effect on early brain development, increasing the risks of cognitive damage, lower IQ and behavioural problems.
While the study focused on regional NSW, researchers said the same types of taps and plumbing fittings were used nation-wide.
Most brass plumbing fittings sold at popular hardware stores contain some lead, according to the researchers.
In contrast, the US virtually prohibits lead in taps and plumbing fittings, excepting those used for manufacturing or industrial purposes.
Researches have advised concerned people to check fittings for lead content and, if needed, replace them with lead-free plumbing fittings and taps.
Installing water filters may also reduce the risk.
Rainwater tanks can also be contaminated from roofing, peeling paint and lead-based filters or pumps, researchers said.
The new study findings come more than 20 years after Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggested limiting or prohibiting the use of lead in plumbing systems.
“Use of products containing lead could be prohibited from use in drinking water or plumbing systems…[which] would be of benefit in reducing the exposure of children to lead,” the NHMRC said.