New Zealand needs to get tough on lead in pipe fittings

28 July 2021

Many plumbing products for sale in New Zealand contain unacceptably high levels of lead and the Government needs to toughen up on regulations.

Water New Zealand chief executive Gillian Blythe says today’s release of the Dunedin City Council investigation into lead contamination in East Otago earlier this year, highlights the risks associated with lead pipework and fittings.

The report indicates that the contamination is most likely linked to lead in service lines and pipe fittings on private properties, rather than the council’s water distribution network.

“This raises some wider issues around lead in pipework that need to be addressed.  The industry has been aware of the need for tougher rules on imported tapware and plumbing fittings for some time.

“There is no independent auditing of tapware products on sale here to ensure they meet safety requirements.”

A study, originally commissioned by Master Plumbers, and later extended through a joint project with Water New Zealand, Massey University and the Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research, found that levels of lead leaching from one product bought online were 70 percent higher than the current limit.

There is also a need to reduce the maximum acceptable value (MAV) of lead allowed in drinking water.

“We are lagging behind other countries such Canada which has already introduced tighter MAVs and the European Parliament which has issued a directive to all member states to move towards lower MAVs for lead.

“We know that there is no identified safe level of lead concentration for humans and that’s why we need to step up our regulations and ensure that plumbing products imported into New Zealand are independently verified.”

lead contamination