Is it true? "Households advised to run taps for 30 seconds amid lead poisoning fears"

We’ve seen some news reports recently about running taps for 30 seconds to avoid lead poisoning. Is this true, or a beat up?

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enHealth certainly released this advice but only to reduce exposure to lead and was not about avoiding lead poisoning by tap water ingestion, to read the pdf see:$File/Lead-plumbing-products-Guidance-Statement-July2018.pdf

The 30 second advice was part of a few recommendations to reduce exposure not only to lead but to other metals used in plumbing. The level of lead exposure however was not expected to be high even if the 30 second run was not carried out. It was recommended so that the level of lead exposure was as low as was possible to achieve.

“Householders can proactively reduce their potential exposure to lead in drinking water through the
following measures:
• using water from cold taps only for drinking and cooking
• flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 30 seconds first thing in the
morning to draw fresh water through the tap
• flushing cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes after long
periods of non-use, such as return from holidays; this ‘flushed’ water can be collected and used
for washing up
• choosing plumbing products that have been certified to WaterMark and AS/NZS 4020:2005;
and/or have low lead content or are lead free, when renovating or building
There is no need for households to have their water tested for lead. The recommendation is to
follow the good practice measures above. By following these measures you can also reduce your
potential exposure to other metals in plumbing, such as copper and nickel”


The recent media is possibly to the Aldi special tapware buys which were found ro have lead in the tapware fittings.

There is risk that water sitting in the tapware for a long period of time may have lead concenrations higher than which naturally occurs in potable , reticulated tap water. The ADWG Health Guideline recognises this and has a maximum recommended level of lead of 0.01mg/L.

Furthermore, most houses have copper piping which is joined using copper capillary fittings, which uses solder in the joints. Solder traditionally has lead as a component (note: EU has phased out lead based solders). Small amounts of this solder may be present on the surface of the joints and may come in contact with water in the pipes.

Elemental lead typically does not dissolve in water under normal conditions likely to be experienced in house plumbing. However, lead can be present in tapwater…see the link in the first sentence of the is paragraph for information on this). It is however likely the the concentrations of lead in the water would be very low and possibly under the ADWG health guidelines, unless the water already has natural elevated levels which may result in the water from a tap not used for some period of time being higher than that recommended in this guideline.

There is a risk that in new plumbing and tapware, residual lead compounds created through manufacturing or through the heating if fhe solder may create lead which will be mobile in the water. Such mobile lead will disappear after a few flushes of the pipe/tapware and would not usually be a concern.

It is also worth noting that the surface of lead in the household pipes will be miniscule compared to the total internal surface area of fhe same the pipes. These pipes are likely to be made of either copper, plastic or galvanised steel.

I beleive that one possibly should be more concerned about the plasticisers in plastic, copper from copper pipe or iron/zinc from galvanised pipes as these can have health impacts and high exposure to such elements (esp. copper, zinc and iron) is more probable. Health impacts of these other metals can be found here:

So in answer to the question,

Yes, lead used in pipes and tapware may contribute to lead present in water if a tap has not been used recently which may result in the slight accumulation of lead in the pipework/tap fitting. It is possible that this lead may increase lefels to above the ADWG guideline levels. Personally I would be more worried about copper, zinc and lead in the water.


The ‘run it for 30 seconds’ fix only has any effect on local lead, that is lead in your own system. If the lead is in the drinking water it does nothing.

The modern trend is towards polymer pipes for internal use. These have no lead. Copper pipes don’t have lead. Brass fittings do have some lead and brass fittings on copper pipe contain solder that contains lead.

Lead is only very slightly soluble unless your water is acidic. Reticulated water has its water pH controlled to prevent this. If your tap water is quite acidic you have many problems as it probably comes from pollution, this is a complex area but the solution is to fix the pH not fuss about only the lead.

If some lead is leached into the water this will not go on for ever as the metal will not migrate through alloys to the surface, only the exposed surface will give up its lead.

Lead is a cumulative poison it is found in many parts of the environment mainly due to human activity. If for some reason you are exposed to lead from other sources then you should be careful about adding to the dose from any source including pipe fittings.

Authorities tend to very cautious about warnings of toxins - especially if they are cumulative. Unless you have reason to believe you have an unusual exposure (or you use the ancient Roman lead pipes inherited from great grandpa) I would not be too concerned.

There are so many potential toxins in the environment that if you get fussed about every one you would worry yourself to death long before any of them got you. If this was such a serious problem plumbing containing any lead would have been banned and we would see legions of people with lead poisoning. We don’t.


30 sec running the tap is about 3 litres wasted water multiply by numerous usages through the day and multiply by millions taps in Australian households. A common sense would be to installing a carbon filter(s).
On the other hand to lift the standards for plumbing products, as lead there is mostly to make brass more pliable, making manufacturing cheaper.

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They only require/advise once a day for the 30 seconds so a loss of perhaps not much more than 3 or 4 litres. But as a saving measure you could capture that water in a container and then use it for washing or watering plants or similar activities.


While it is possible that the Roman Empire fell in part because of its use of ‘plumbum’ (Latin for lead) in water pipes and subsequent lead poisoning, Australia’s plumbing (yes, there is a link to the Latin there) relies upon the much less dangerous copper.

Running a tap for 30 seconds seems like overkill for getting rid of ‘local’ lead in the fixture - five seconds should be more than enough. Of course, this wouldn’t be necessary if taps and other such fixtures were lead-free in the first place.


The “30 second and once a day” advice is to ensure that the tap you are using has allowed all the line and fittings, joins and fixtures that lie between the tap and supply source get adequate flow to remove the leached lead before you drink any. It does not say that the levels if you don’t do it are above the guidelines, it is just to lessen any exposure to the minimum that is reasonably possible. Another benefit in copper piped houses is to flush any extra copper in solution out of the system before you drink, and this would help reduce other heavy metal exposure as an added benefit.


I recall watching a documentary around a decade ago regarding a Roman city in Italy that was abandoned around 2,000 yerars ago, and the researchers were trying to determine why.

One thing that they looked at was the reticulated water to each residence which utilised lead pipes to see if lead poisoning had killed off the population.

However, they decided that the inside of the lead pipes would have quickly formed a coating of carbonate or oxide that would have prevented this happening.

I don’t recall what they ultimately decided was the cause for the city being deserted or the name of the city.


The following report prepared by members of Macquarie University considers in detail the issue of lead in plumbing products.

It is important to note that brass comes in many different alloy combinations. There are low/lead and lead free alloys of brass. Some brass plumbing items may be plated. The degree to which brass plumbing fittings may contribute to lead in drinking water will differ between households. And on the quality of any fittings used. Older properties with all copper piping may also have lead solder fittings. When used today the code requirement is for the use of unleaded solder for household plumbing.

It may also be worthwhile noting that a standard water carbon filter will not remove lead from drinking water. There are alternate filter cartridges that are promoted as ‘reducing’ heavy metals in drinking water. They however do not assure removal of all lead. We use one for our tank water in lieu of a standard carbon filter. They can cost upwards of $40 each? We have an old roof on an old house. Zinc is also a risk. The plumbing is mostly HDPE (poly pipe).

Our drinking water tap is a stainless steel product.


Recently I discovered the following interview with Paul Harvey, a researcher in this area:

His comments made me realise that this is a serious matter, especially as it relates to food and drink processing.

Current food labelling focuses on a narrow range of information: vitamins and mineral content; gluten free, etc.

Has any research been done to ascertain how much lead is found in drinks and processed food in Australia?

What sort of changes are needed to ensure that people are getting the information needed to make really healthy choices?

Hi @petpad.byers, since your post contains information about ‘30 second running’ for taps, I have moved your post to an existing thread about the same topic. In relation to:

Food labelling isn’t about listing every compound/element that could be in a food. It provides a summary of key nutritional information to allow decisions to be made at the time of purchase. Not withstanding this, the compounds in the nutritional panel are not the only things which are tested for food and drink products. Other tests include other compounds/elements, microbiological activity and known contaminants.

Lead is a compound that is tested regularly, especially if they are a product likely to contain lead compounds. Food Standards Australia has also established lead limits in foods and drinks. More information can be found on the Food Standards Australia website:

Food (and drinks) sold in Australia need to comply with the FSA limits. As a result, foods and drinks sold in Australia are safe and it answers your question:

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I would be cautious about relying on 2GB for health advice. So I went looking for the actual report, which appears to be legitimately referenced by 2GB and I provide a link:$File/Lead-plumbing-products-Guidance-Statement-July2018.pdf

The idea of running the tap for 30 seconds is specifically stated for “first thing in the morning” (i.e. not before every use) and an even longer 2 to 3 minutes “after long periods of non-use, such as return from holidays”. It also advises only ever using cold water for drinking and cooking.

It also notes how the relevance of this advice can depend on the age of the house, due to varying (improving) building standards over the decades.

Finally, it notes various sources of lead that you might come into contact with and which are more prolific than exposure via drinking water.


I recall watching a documentary some years ago regarding the discovery of an ancient Roman town where the population had disappeared without any records of why.

The town had reticulated water provided in lead pipes and the researchers initially wondered if the population had been poisoned by the lead.

However, research showed that the inside of lead pipes soon built up a layer from calcium or some other materials which insulated the water from the lead.

Lead pipes were also common in other Roman towns where the populations had not vanished.

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