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Environmental health supporting WHO awareness campaign

Published Tuesday 24th October 17

Env Health

WHO awareness campaign on lead in water supplies

22nd to 28th October is the World Health Organisation’s awareness campaign on international lead poisoning prevention.  Its purpose is to raise awareness of the need for action to address the human health effects of exposure to lead, especially in relation to children.

Drinking water delivered through lead pipes or pipe joints with lead solder may contain lead. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead because they absorb 4-5 times as much ingested lead as adults from a given source and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the brain and nervous system.  Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.  Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations.

In Scotland, most people’s risk of lead poisoning is very small as lead generally isn’t used in paints, petrol or food containers.  Furthermore, lead does not occur naturally in significant concentrations in our water supplies.  This has resulted in a very low exposure to lead for the majority of people.   However, the problem arises when drinking water comes into contact with lead supply pipes, lead tanks, lead solder joints on copper pipes or inferior quality brass fittings and taps, particularly for longer periods (e.g. overnight / weekends / holidays).  This can result in higher levels of lead in the drinking water.

East Lothian Council Environmental Health Service routinely carries out chemical testing on Private Water Supplies and drinking water in schools, public buildings, caravan parks and approved food manufacturers.

A recent Environmental Health sampling survey of all East Lothian Council nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools revealed a healthy set of results. Out of the 139 drinking water points tested all of the results showed no trace of lead within the samples.

Service Manager for Protective Services, Derek Oliver said

“Even though there is wide recognition of this problem and many countries have taken action, exposure to lead, particularly in children, remains of key concern to health care providers and public health officials worldwide. With this week of action, we would invite all privately owned nurseries within East Lothian to contact us to arrange free lead sampling from their drinking water points.”

More information and a link to NHS information on the health effects of exposure to lead can be accessed via the My East Lothian app.  The Environmental Health Service can be contacted via 01620 827365 or ehts@eastlothian.gov.uk

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