The efficiency of removal of lead and other elements from domestic drinking waters using a bench-top water filter system

Brian L. Gulson*, Ann Sheehan, Angela M. Giblin, Massimo Chiaradia, Berti Conradt

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    The efficiency of removal of lead (Pb) and other elements from natural drinking waters using a bench-top water filter system was evaluated in three recently-built houses in Sydney, Australia, and two from rural centres. In addition, one filter system was tested for copper (Cu), Pb and cadmium (Cd) under rigorously-controlled laboratory conditions using Sydney water. For two Sydney houses, the efficiency was evaluated using special filter cartridges concomitant with the ordinary filters. Waters after passing through the filter, was sampled when the filter had been exposed to '0', 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 1 respectively and were analysed for lead isotopes and lead concentrations by high precision isotope dilution mass spectrometry. Samples that passed through the filter after '0', 50, 150 and 250 l collections were analysed for four anions and 39 cations by various methods. Sydney water was fairly uniform in its anion and cation composition, whereas water from the two rural areas contained higher concentrations of Ca, Mg and HCO3. Effects of the filter on the water compositions can be summarised into three groups: (1) elements removed during filtration - Ca, Mg, Sr, Ba, Cu, Pb, Zn and Ni. With 'age' of the filter, the efficiency of removal for Pb was maintained in the two houses with Pb concentrations greater than 10 μg/l in the first flush water and was maintained for Cu through all concentrations. Ca, Mg, Sr and Ba were largely removed in the first 50 l of usage. (2) Elements added during filtration - K, Rb, Ag and P. Except for Ag, which was present throughout the testing period, these elements were added only in the first filtration. (3) Elements unaffected by filtration - Al, Si, Na, Fe, Cl and F. Efficiency of Pb removal from tap water by this system depends generally on the initial Pb content in the water. However, it also seems to depend, to some extent, on Pb speciation and water composition, as found in earlier studies of natural waters. The control in filtering efficiency as a function of Pb speciation and chemical composition becomes more important at low initial Pb concentrations in the water. However, the Pb concentrations at which speciation and water composition appear to play a role in filter efficiency are so low that these factors, though scientifically interesting; have no relevance from a practical point of view, especially the impact on human health. Acidification of six sets of duplicate water samples, one sample immediately after collection and the other acidified after more than 2 weeks, showed negligible changes in Pb or Cu concentrations between duplicates.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)205-216
    Number of pages12
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 1997


    • Copper
    • Domestic water filter
    • Lead
    • Other elements


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