Effect of plumbing systems on lead content of drinking water and contribution to lead body burden

Brian L. Gulson*, Alistair J. Law, Michael J. Korsch, Karen J. Mizon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Stable lead isotopes and lead contents in drinking water from a number of Australian cities have been measured to determine the contribution of drinking water to body burden. Lead contents are generally < 2 μg/l and thus contribute an insignificant amount to the lead budget in humans in Australia. First-flush and running water samples taken at intervals of up to 10 min show that equilibrium is reached within 1 min or ∼ 10 1 by volume. There is, however, large variability in both lead content and isotopic composition within the first minute which brings into question the reliability of the recommended sampling time of 30 s. Extremely large isotopic differences between individual dwellings within the one city and between dwellings and the storage tanks for the water supply are attributed to differences in lead residing in the plumbing within the dwellings, usually from lead solder in brass fittings. Isotopic analysis of solder and water from two dwellings confirm this relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-284
Number of pages6
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Body burden
  • First flush
  • Lead
  • Water


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