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QUESTION: Why isn't lead flashing mentioned to everyone that buys a new home in Queensland? - 26 Jun 2007 Queensland, Australia

My family has just purchased a house with a water tank as required. We received a rebate from the government for firstly purchasing a tank and secondly connecting it internally. A builder friend of mine has said I should not do that because the water is running off the lead flashing and into the water tank. We were drinking this water to save water.

Could you advise me if this is a problem and if so why is it not mentioned to everyone that buys a new home in Queensland.

Thanking you so much for your expected response.


ANSWER: 05 Jun 2009

Dear Jackson,

You did not supply an email address when you wrote to us so I hope that this email can be forwarded to you if I've not found online your correct address. My sincere apologies for the long delay in replying to your email. At the time you wrote we did not have enough volunteers to answer all the inquiries.

You ask a good question and an important question. I sincerely hope you followed your builder's advice and at least had your drinking water tested for lead before continuing to drink it, OR, better still (because Medicare can pay for it) asked the doctor to give everyone in your family a blood lead test. In Queensland, a blood lead level above 15 micrograms per decilitre is notifiable and the Health Department will come to the home and test various potential sources of lead, including water. It is still today, a very worthwhile thing to do to get these blood lead tests. We recommend that you do your own testing of potential lead sources if anyone in the family has a blood lead level above 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 µg/dL ). I will send you our Info pack on the reasons I say that, in a separate email.

As to why the Queensland government does not warn people who are seeking a rebate for adding a drinking water tank to a home that has lead flashing on the water collection area of the roof - I guess they are either completely under informed on the dangers of drinking rainwater that has passed over lead flashing (despite the Australian Greenhouse Office itself having that very problem for their federal government workforce), or they figure that no one will sue them for such an oversight because hardly anyone has a builder who is aware of the potential problem.

The Building Code of Australia states that no lead flashing should be used on the roof collection area if a drinking water tank is going to be built when the house is being built. Unfortunately, the Building Code does not, as far as I'm aware (although I've asked them to change it) prohibit the addition of a drinking water tank to a home which already has lead flashing on it. Again, I guess that the Australian Building Code Board figures no one will work this out and sue them for their lack of foresight and poor preventative public health policies. You can ask your local council to check out the actual wording on this issue in the current edition of the code - we can not afford to buy a copy - they cost hundreds and there's a new edition, I think, every six months or so.

If you are interested in following this up with the government agency which gives out the tank rebate, I'd be very happy to assist you in this important endeavour.

Again, I apologise that we simply did not have the staff to answer your email when it arrived. Our information service has a chronic shortage of government funding so only has a paid staff of one!

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O’Brien

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