Lead Exposure from Drinking Water in Large Buildings, Canada

Deshommes E, Andrews RC, Gagnon G, McCluskey T, McIlwain B, Doré E, Nour S, Prévost M. Evaluation of exposure to lead from drinking water in large buildings. Water Research. 2016 Apr 22;99:46-55. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2016.04.050.

Lead results from 78,971 water samples collected in four Canadian provinces from elementary schools, daycares, and other large buildings using regulatory and investigative sampling protocols were analyzed to provide lead concentration distributions. Maximum concentrations reached 13,200 and 3890 μg/L following long and short stagnation periods respectively. High lead levels were persistent in some large buildings, reflected by high median values considering all taps, or specific to a few taps in the building. Simulations using the Integrated Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model and lead concentrations after 30 min of stagnation in the dataset showed that, for most buildings, exposure to lead at the tap does not increase children’s blood lead levels (BLLs). However, buildings or taps with extreme concentrations represent a significant health risk to young children attending school or daycare, as the estimated BLL far exceeded the 5 μg/dL threshold. Ingestion of water from specific taps could lead to acute exposure. Finally, for a few taps, the total daily lead intake reached the former World Health Organization (WHO) tolerable level for adults, suggesting potential health risks.

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