Lead in Drinking Water
Drinking water in Niagara, distributed by your municipality, is extremely low in lead. However, lead can enter your drinking water from lead service lines, lead plumbing, solder or plumbing devices containing lead.
Older homes (constructed before 1955) may have some lead plumbing and may be served by lead water service lines. Homes constructed prior to the mid to late 1980's may have their plumbing connected with lead base solder.
Dissolved lead can be released into drinking water when left sitting for a prolonged period and particulate lead can enter drinking water through normal flow conditions.
Health Effects of Lead in Drinking Water
Drinking water's contribution to total lead exposure is very low and occurs over a long-term period. Pregnant women and children under the age of six are most at risk to the health effects from long-term exposure to lead. Older children and adults do not readily absorb lead. Parents are advised to discuss specific health concerns with their physician.
In March of 2019, Health Canada established a Maximum Acceptable Concentration of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for total lead in drinking water. In Ontario, the current drinking water quality standard for lead in the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 under Ontario Regulation 169/03 is 10 ppb.
To have your municipal drinking water sampled and tested for lead, contact your local municipal office for details.
What should I do if my water tests show unacceptable levels of lead?
- Run water from your drinking water tap if it has been sitting in the pipes for prolonged periods. Water should be flushed for at least five minutes.
- After 5 minutes of flushing, all lead levels will decrease but may not reach acceptable levels, it is important to understand that lead levels will fluctuate depending on water conditions and the time water is left sitting in the plumbing.
- Additional sampling may be required to determine adequate flushing times.
- Use cold, flushed water for drinking and preparing food. Water from the hot water tap should not be consumed as heated water may contain higher lead levels.
- Activities such as bathing, showering, and washing dishes or clothes will not cause undue exposure to lead. Lead in water is not easily absorbed through skin or mucous membranes.
Pregnant women and children under six years of age, with high levels of lead in their drinking water, should do the following:
- Investigate the source of lead contamination. Contact your municipality to discuss replacing the lead service pipes to your house.
- It is important to remove all lead sources from the drinking water supply and not perform partial lead line replacement as this may increase the amount of lead in drinking water.
- If you are a tenant, contact your landlord to investigate the source of lead.
- Use an alternate source for drinking water (bottled water) or use an in-home water treatment system. Use a filtration system that meets the NSF-53 standard for reducing lead.
Niagara Region Public Health
Environmental Health Division
905-688-8248 ext. 7590 or 1-888-505-6074