Health Canada sets new guideline for lead in drinking water

Ground Water Canada
March 11, 2019
By Ground Water Canada
Ottawa – Health Canada, in collaboration with the provinces, territories and other federal departments, has updated the drinking water guideline to reduce the maximum acceptable concentration of lead in drinking water from 0.01 mg/L, set in 1992, to 0.005 mg/L. 

The move is based on the latest science, Health Canada said in a news release. Lead levels in Canada have fallen dramatically over the past 30 years, the government said, crediting limitations it has placed on lead use in smelters, steel mills, refineries and mining operations; gasoline; paints, ceramics, glassware, kettles, corded window coverings, cosmetic products and pharmaceuticals; and a range of other natural health and consumer products, especially those intended for children. 

Lead is usually found in drinking water after leaching from distribution and plumbing system parts. It was historically used in service lines (that is, pipes connecting a home or business to a street's water main) and in plumbing fittings and solders. Until 1975, lead was an acceptable material in pipes based on the National Plumbing Code of Canada, so it is more likely to be found in older homes and neighbourhoods. Since lead was regularly used in these plumbing system parts for many years, drinking water systems in Canada may still have some of these lead components in place today. As such, it is expected to take time before all jurisdictions are able to meet the new guideline for the maximum concentration of lead in drinking water. 

All jurisdictions in Canada agree on the need to reduce exposure to lead, according to the release.

Health Canada will continue to support provinces, territories and other federal departments in implementing the new guideline. The department will also work with provinces, territories and other federal departments, including Indigenous Services Canada, to provide accurate and relevant information to municipalities and Canadians concerned about the health effects of lead levels in drinking water. 

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