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QUESTION: Is there likely to be migration of lead from storm water pvc pipes into the tankwater? - 15 Jul 2007 Victoria, Australia


I've recently installed a water tank at home. During the summer months water will be in contact with pvc storm water pipes that feed the tank from the roof for up to several months when we do not have rain. Is there likely to be migration of lead or the other metals in this type of pvc into the water that I am collecting?

Thankyou for your assistance.


EMAIL TWO Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 10:09 PM

Hi Elizabeth

Thankyou for the reply. It's good that the Lead Group is still going. I thought that you had folded. Thankyou for the advice. We are not drinking the water, but using it for our vegetables and fruit trees. Would i be right in thinking that there would be little risk from the lead in the pipes from this situation. We don't, as far as i know, have elevated blood lead levels.



EMAIL THREE Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 7:13 PM


We did have my daughter's blood lead levels tested when she was very young about 15 years ago and they came up ok. This was before we got the tanks.



EMAIL FOUR Sent: Friday, June 19, 2009 7:40 PM

Hi Elizabeth

I'll see if I can find the original results, but my memory of them was that they were well below 10 micrograms per decilitre. Thanks


ANSWER: 05 Jun 2009

Dear Max,

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.

Knowing that lead can leach out of stormwater PVC piping into the water, to varying degrees depending on water softness, temperature, time the water spends sitting in contact with the piping and the amount of organic (leaf) matter involved, I can only assume that the same MAY be true for cadmium, although I do not actually know whether there is cadmium in PVC stormwater piping. Lead is not restricted in PVC stormwater piping which is why we recommend, for the purposes of collecting drinking water, replacing such piping with potable water (pressure) PVC piping, which is required to be non-leaded.

I sincerely hope, following on the thought that it might be a problem, that you 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 Victoria, a blood lead level above 15 micrograms per decilitre is not a notifiable disease but you can ask your doctor to ask the Department of Human Services to 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.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O’Brien

EMAIL TWO Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:26 AM

Hi Max,

thanks for your second email. It is a relief to know that some people keep their email addresses for more than a year!

The fruit from the fruit trees should be okay even if there is lead in their water source but vegetables vary in their uptake of lead from soil and leaded soil or water may also be ingested on the vegetables if vegetables are not washed with lead-free water prior to processing.

Unfortunately, only a person with a good doctor could possibly "know" that they had an elevated blood lead level without a blood lead test, and even then, they could only "know" that they had a very high blood lead because, normally elevated blood lead levels, despite causing damage, are typically symptom-free at the time of exposure. To be absolutely sure that all your practices in regard to the use of the PVC stormwater piping and indeed the myriad other commonly available sources of lead, are lead-safe, you would need to get a blood lead test, at least on the most at-risk person in the family - usually the youngest person who is above the age of crawling.

I hope this helps.

All the best with those wonderful-sounding fruit trees and vegies. Doesn't it make your heart sing to be eating food you've grown yourself?


EMAIL THREE, sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:35 AM

Hi Max,

A person's blood lead level changes throughout life - this is especially true for females - and certainly changes in response to their lead exposure. I know from my own experience 17 years ago that doctors are capable of telling you that the most unacceptable blood lead levels are "ok". My then one year old had a blood lead level of 31 micrograms per decilitre and the GP said that was "ok", which was when we set about getting the National Health and Medical Research Council to reduce it's Level of Concern of 25 micrograms per decilitre down to a goal of being less than 10 micrograms per decilitre. To this day, doctors look at the pathology reports, some of which state that the "normal" range for blood leads is up to 15 micrograms per decilitre, and do nothing when the result is above the "normal" range. If you could get or find a copy of the original blood lead result, you could then know whether it was actually ok, ie below 2 micrograms per decilitre, but you could still keep in mind that whenever your daughter needs to have blood taken for some other reason, then is an excellent time to ask for a blood lead test on the same sample. But ask before the blood is taken, so that it can be collected in the correct vial. If more opportunistic blood lead testing like this was done, I'm absolutely convinced that more leaded consumer products would be revealed as causing the unacceptable blood lead levels that many people unknowingly suffer the effects of, later in life.

All the best


Update 2012: Art Plastics has a diverse range of Storm Water products, manufactured from lead free PVC.

Pipeworx Plus has a range of both SWJ (Solvent Weld Joint) and RRJ (Rubber Ring Joint) pipes for use in the irrigation industry which are all lead free.

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