A tap bought from Aldi by 12,000 Aussie households can contaminate water with up to fifteen times the safe limit for lead, according to reports. The ACCC has warned of the supermarket chain's "Spiral Spring Mixer Tap", urging customers to avoid avoid drinking or cooking with water from it.
As reported by ABC, while the ACCC has not issued an official recall, Aldi has removed the tap from sale following the test results, which were commissioned by The Queensland Building and Construction Commission. If you have one of these taps in your home or business, you can contact Aldi for a full refund.
Paul Harvey, a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University says this problem is both not new, and more widespread than people realise.
"Our data shows that new taps in Australia are generally non-compliant for lead concentrations at the time of installation and this is reflected in the elevated concentrations of lead in drinking water at kitchen taps across the country," Harvey says.
"Consumers can readily purchase off the shelf products that contain very high concentrations of lead, up to 4.5 per cent, compared to the maximum allowable USA value of 0.25 per cent, with no warning labels or indication of potential hazards."
Harvey says that despite recommendations for flushing taps prior to use, this is not always effective.
"This is an ongoing hazard associated with all lead-brass fittings Australia-wide and the only immediate solution to this problem for consumers is to install lead-free taps."
Dr Ian Musgrave, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, School of Medicine Sciences, within the Discipline of Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide says the reports are "extremely concerning".
Dr Musgrave points out that while the levels involved are low and not likely to cause acute lead poisoning, lead is a cumulative toxin.
"Continued consumption of low levels of lead can have adverse effects especially in young children and unborn babies," Dr Musgrave says. "Effects include disruption of red blood cell, production, kidney damage, behavioural disturbances and other nervous system effects."
Details of the degree of contamination are not clear, it appears to be only one tap that has been tested, thus the report of 'has up to 15 times the permitted lead levels' from a single tap may indicate that the contaminant is leaching out variably.
"Until it is determined if other taps of this brand are similarly contaminated (previous test samples had complied with Australian regulations) people who have purchased these taps should not use water from them for drinking or cooking," Dr Musgrave warns. "Anyone who has any health concerns should consult their health professional."