A toxics watchdog group has urged the government to ensure that only lead-safe water faucets and other plumbing fixtures are sold in the market to reduce the potential for lead exposure in drinking water.
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group campaigning to prevent and reduce, if not eliminate, human exposure to toxic lead, drew attention to the unrestricted sale of brass or chrome-plated brass water faucets with high lead content.
A chemical screening conducted by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device showed that the five brass water faucets that it bought from plumbing supplies stores at Soler St., Sta. Cruz, Manila for P120 to P300 each had total lead content ranging from 14,500 parts per million (ppm) to 84,700 ppm.
“The Chemical Control Order (CCO) issued by the government banning lead in the production of water pipes, among other prohibitions, should apply to water faucets and should be strictly enforced,” said chemist Jeiel Guarino, Lead Poisoning Prevention Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We ask manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to voluntary abide by the CCO as lead-containing plumbing products that are in contact with water may contaminate drinking water,” he added.
Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje promulgated last December 2013 the said CCO prohibiting the use of lead in the manufacturing of water pipes, cosmetics, fuel additives, packaging for food and drink, school supplies, toys and paints exceeding the 90 ppm threshold limit.
“While ingesting and inhaling lead paint chips and dust remain the top routes for childhood exposure to lead, we must look at all sources of lead contamination, including lead in drinking water, and eliminate the preventable ones as there is no known safe level of lead exposure for a developing fetus or child,” Guarino said.
US environmental and health authorities confirmed that “water sitting for several hours or overnight in a brass faucet can leach lead from the brass faucet interior which may produce high lead levels in the first draw of drinking water.”
“Pregnant women and small children such as babies who consume milk formula prepared with lead-tainted water will be at a higher risk,” Guarino said
As stated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.”
The EcoWaste Coalition cited the fact sheet published by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) explaining that “exposure to lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects, especially in children and infants. Their exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water can result in delays in physical or mental development, reduced intelligence, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage.”
“For adults, high levels of exposure to lead in drinking water can result in kidney problems, high blood pressure, nerve disorders, fertility problems, muscle and joint pain, irritability, memory and concentration problems. Furthermore, pregnant women can pass lead contained in their bodies to their fetuses,” the DTSC said.
The EcoWaste Coalition also cited the US Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 requiring that, by January 2014, all wetted surfaces of water pipes, fittings and fixtures, including faucets, must not contain a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead.