watermatters has moved!

May 22nd, 2020

watermatters is now located at 3622 W. 4th Ave in Vancouver, BC.


Lead is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen and a heavy metal that bio-accumulates in the body. It is dangerous to everyone and particularly to children. Once ingested, it may be stored in the bones and soft tissues for decades. Even extremely low levels of exposure are toxic and very difficult to eliminate. Lead gets into water from the corrosion of plumbing parts (such as the solder used to join copper pipes) and from brass fittings and faucets.

Most Vulnerable: young children and pregnant mothers

Lead has a toxic effect on the brain, especially the developing brains of young children. Exposure can lead to lowered IQ, emotional reactivity, aggression, and diminished social functioning.
There is no safe level for lead. Its presence is complicated by the fact that it cannot be detected in water by sight, smell or taste. Testing is the only way to detect lead in water.
Adverse consequences are most significant for young children and pregnant women. Potential effects to lead exposure during pregnancy include premature births, smaller babies, decreased mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties, and reduced growth in young children.
Lead free water is particularly important for infants whose formula is prepared by adding water to liquid concentrate or powder.

Lead in Drinking Water – the problem is at home

Unlike most other drinking water contaminants, lead is usually not in water before it reaches your home or workplace. It comes from contact with lead service lines (water pipes that link a house to the main water supply), lead solder used to join pipes, or form brass plumbing fixtures such as faucets.

Lead Levels in Drinking Water: 4 significant factors

1. Greater risk of lead in older homes

    1. Older homes built prior to the mid-1950’s are more likely to have lead pipes and service lines, especially in provinces east of British Columbia

“The City of Vancouver conducted a lead service replacement program in the ‘80s to remove lead water services to the property line. According to staff who were involved in the replacement program, they do not recall seeing any lead service on private property. Galvanized pipes was the common material on private property (in Vancouver) as it was much less expensive…For residents who have particular concerns about metals from aged household plumbing, there are a number of CAEAL accredited private laboratories who offer testing services.” – Jennifer Bailey, Water Quality Department, City of Vancouver, Jan 2007

In Vancouver BC, homes built between the mid 1950’s and 1989 are not likely to have lead pipes or service lines but may have lead in some fixtures or lead solder used to join pipes.
Homes built after 1989 are unlikely to have any lead in pipes, service lines, solder or pipe connections.
In other parts of Canada, plumbing containing lead, including service lines, are more likely to still be in place especially in older buildings.

2. pH influences lead content in water

    1. Lead-based pipes and other plumbing materials corrode if water has a low pH (is very acidic) or if its alkalinity (the ability of the water to stabilize the pH) is too low.
    1. The optimal pH of water for controlling lead corrosion is between 7.5 and 9.5.
    Water supplied to Metro Vancouver is naturally acidic (low pH). Metro Vancouver adjusts the pH of tap to offset this corrosive effect.

3. Lead leaches into stagnant water

    1. Lead levels increase significantly in ‘standing’ water (that is water that sits unused in pipes overnight or for extended periods of time). For this reason municipalities advise people who live in older homes to run their tap water first thing in the morning (and after returning home from work) until water runs cold to flush any standing water. Periodically, remove and clean all faucet aerators.
    Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment advises that people in homes with lead service lines should flush standing water for at least 5 minutes.

4. Warm water increases lead levels

    Never use hot water for drinking, cooking, or especially for making baby formula. Heat increases the leaching of lead into water.

Identifying Lead Pipes in Your Home

lead pipe

lead pipe

copper pipe

copper pipe

Your water service line is the pipe that enters your home through the wall or floor in your basement and is connected to your water meter. Service lines are typically made of lead or copper. Lead service lines are silver/grey in colour. Lead is soft and non-magnetic. It can be easily engraved with a sharp stick or metal nail. Copper pipe, on the other hand, is the same colour as a penny.
If your house is connected by a lead service line and/or you have concerns about the quality of your water, please contact your municipality.

Some other sources of lead exposure may be:

For more information about lead see Environmental Defence.

Health Canada Guidelines for lead in drinking water
Health Canada’s Guideline for the maximum acceptable concentration of lead content in drinking water was lowered by half in early 2019 from 0.010 mg/L to 0.005 mg/L (milligrams per litre).

0.005 mg/L is the same as 5 µg/dL or 5 parts per billion (ppb).
To give you an idea of how small these numbers are, 1 ppb is comparable to 1 second in 32 years, or 1¢ in $10,000,000.

It is controversial that, in Canada, this standard is measured using a free flowing water sample (after the water has run for some time). In the U.S water is tested for lead at first draw.

How to Protect Yourself from Lead in Drinking Water

Use a point-of-use filtration system certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for the removal of lead.
Be sure to replace filter cartridges at regular, recommended intervals to ensure sustained protection.
Boiling water will NOT remove lead.
All pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures that come in contact with drinking water should meet the low-lead rule.


Lead in Drinking Water:
Health Canada: Reducing Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water

The information and recommendations provided on this website have not been evaluated by Health Canada and are for educational purposes only. The products and information offered on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always ask your doctor before using any products.