Aldi continues testing of lead contamination in kitchen taps

Wednesday, 12th July, 2017

Aldi has removed the tap from stores while it investigates the issues highlighted by the QBCC. Photo: Supplied

AN environmental contaminants expert says he was "astounded" by the public reaction to an allegedly lead-contaminated tap sold at Aldi, claiming the finding was "nothing new".

On Monday Australians who had purchased taps from German supermarket Aldi were being warned, after tests commissioned by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission revealed lead levels up to 15 times the maximum acceptable level of lead in drinking water.

The single tap tested by Queensland Health, on behalf of the QBCC, was the Easy Home spiral spring mixer tap (model number NI183ESCRT-AUD), which had been sold around Australia on June 10.

However, Paul Harvey, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of environmental sciences at Macquarie University, said such levels of lead were not unusual in household taps on the Australian market.

"When I heard the story break, I thought, that's nothing new," he said.

Last year Mr Harvey conducted a study of lead contamination in kitchen drinking water across regional and rural NSW, with some properties recording "roughly the same" lead levels as reported by the QBCC.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines recommend no more than 10 micrograms of lead per litre.

In 212 water samples, Mr Harvey recorded 8 per cent with lead levels above the guidelines. Almost half of the 212 samples recorded levels above five micrograms per litre.

"Around 99 per cent of taps in shops have some lead brass in them," he said, adding that kitchen tap fittings today were a primary source of drinking water lead contamination.

"My modelling showed that when you look at water concentrations coming out of taps after a mimicked overnight stagnation period, the first draw of water has much higher levels of lead, as it has been leaching the lead out of the brass overnight."

Fairfax Media has been contacted by more than 70 different Australian consumers who have expressed concern after purchasing and installing Aldi tapware recently.

While many purchased the Easy Home tap in the Aldi special buy sale on June 10, others purchased the same or similar taps "several months ago," or last year.

"We bought one for ourselves and for our parents in June. Ours is currently installed," Martin Wilson said.

"We have two little babies in the house and we use water from this tap for formula for the oldest one, who is 17 months."

Mr Wilson said it was "pretty frustrating" to hear about the possible lead contamination, but added that it was "better to find out now than in six years' time," if the testing proved to be correct.

Another consumer told Fairfax Media she purchased two Easy Home taps for $79.99 each, during a recent kitchen upgrade.

"I'm interested in who is going to foot the plumber's bill if they are recalled. I've just paid to have them put in."

An Aldi Australia spokesperson said it was working with the ACCC to complete further investigation of the product and the claims made by the QBCC.

"Our third party accredited laboratory is undertaking escalated and comprehensive testing of the product, which is expected to be completed by July 31."

If it detects any problems with the June-issued Easy Home tap, Aldi will conduct further testing on taps sold previously. 

The Sydney Morning Herald

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