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Lead in water supply - Drank throughout pregnancy & sons early months.

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I have a question,



I moved into a property around November 2013 and it was a fairly old house needed a bit of tidying up

but we were happy as it was cheap £480 PCM.



My partner found out she was pregnant around March 2014 and my son was born in the November.



I think we finally discovered the problem with the water when he was around 6 months old, and all this time we were using it as normal.

We moved out 2-3 weeks ago finally after finding our own place,



my question is do I have a right to seek compensation for potential damages to my son and how would I go about this?

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Hi Westbeef and welcome to CAG.

Can I be so direct as to ask, what damages are we talking about here?


Well consuming lead during pregnancy and early years can lead to many development issues with children, it can affect their brain growth and behavior.

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Erm... Something like this isnt as black and white as it can be made out.

It would take potential legal challenges and also diagnosis from various doctors.


We could do with some help from you.


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Receptaculum Ignis


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Occasional lead occurs naturally in groundwater

however, this is a rare situation in the UK and lead is not present in the water within our wider public water supply network.


However before 1970, many smaller water pipes were made from lead.

Although lead pipes have not been permitted for this purpose for four decades,

in older properties it remains possible that part, or all,

of the underground service pipe connecting the water main in the street to your kitchen tap may be made from lead.

It is also possible that some original lead plumbing remains within older properties especially if the kitchen has not been modernised.


In hard water areas the scale that forms on the inside of pipes protects against the dissolution of lead from the pipe into the water.

However in soft upland water supply areas there is a greater likelihood of lead from pipes being present in the water.


Where this risk exists, water companies treat the water with orthophosphate and this reduces the problem significantly.

None the less, particles of lead may build up in these older pipes and intermittently appear in tap water.


A less common cause of lead in drinking water is the illegal use of lead based solder to join together sections of copper pipe.

Lead solder is still sold for use on closed central heating systems and mistakes occasionally happen whereby unqualified plumbers or householders

use lead solder on drinking water pipes contrary to the law.


For all these reasons, the amount of lead in drinking water at a particular property may sometimes be above the health based standard.


If your home has been modernised since 1970 and all of the pipes from the water company's stop valve outside your home to the kitchen tap replaced,

there should be no lead pipe on your property.


If your home was built:

• before 1970 it may have lead pipes


• after 1970 it is unlikely to have lead pipes property belongs to the water company.

This is known as the communication pipe.


The part of the service pipe leading from the stop valve outside your property to the point where it enters your home is the responsibility of the owner.

This is known as the private or supply pipe.


All the plumbing inside your home to the kitchen tap is the responsibility of the property owner.


How can I find out if there is lead in my drinking water?

If you suspect that your home has lead pipes you can ask your water company to test the water at your kitchen tap for lead.

Water companies take daily samples from consumer taps for lead at random

and they will give you a report of this testing in your local area (water supply zone) free on request.

They will also tell you whether they are treating the water to minimise the likelihood of lead pick up.


Your water company will be aware of and will tell you if you live in an area with a history of lead pipes having been used and not removed.

You can also have your water sampled by a private laboratory for which there would be a charge

and this can be through your local authority environmental health service.


If you live in social housing or you are a tenant, your first point of contact for further advice is also environmental health.


In the short term if tests have confirmed a risk then you should not drink water that has been standing in the pipes for long periods,

for example, overnight, or if no one has been at home during the day.


Instead, before you draw off water for drinking and cooking, put the plug in the sink or put a kitchen bowl under the tap,

and let the tap run until the sink or bowl is full.



This amount will remove standing water in a pipe of up to 40 metres in length.

You can then use the kitchen tap as normal.


The above short term measure will protect you and your family but it is a waste of water

and you should take steps as soon as practicable to replace the lead pipes between the stop valve outside your home and your kitchen tap.


When arranging for this you should notify your water company

because they are legally required to replace their communication pipe if all of the following criteria are met:


• test results show the level of lead in your drinking water to be above the drinking water standard of 10 μg/l;

• the owner agrees to replace all lead pipes for which they are responsible;

• the owner requests the replacement of the communication pipe in writing



.When replacing lead pipes make sure this does not reduce electrical safety by removing any earthing arrangements dependent on the pipes.

Ask your electricity supplier if in doubt.


Some local authorities offer assistance with removal of lead pipe from social housing.

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Thanks for the information, it has been confirmed it is the pipework on the property that is the issue. The levels were also confirmed by the water supplier as over 10x the limit for lead content in water. (Test carried out by water supplier, and they checked their pipes outside the property.)

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I think we finally discovered the problem with the water...


Specifically, what problem with the water?


A lead content over 10x the recommended limit, confirmed by the water providers tests.

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Did water Co test lead levels of supply before it entered the propsrty and provide figures?

If not, not scientific to accuse property of causing the lead problem, though it may be contributory.

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A lead content over 10x the recommended limit, confirmed by the water providers tests.


Thanks. It seemed I asked the question at the same time as you were answering it!


I assume you are saying that the water company's tests on the water before it came into the property showed no issues.


Advice seems to be that "no level of lead is safe" and for that reason the requirements set a very low limit. That does not mean exceeding the limit is going to cause noticeable harm though.


I was brought up in a house with lead pipes till I went to university at 18. I'm fine, honest!


It is possible that the landlord failed to meet an obligation to ensure the water is safe, but even if he has that may only result in a requirement put upon him to rectify the issue.


Who instigated the testing?

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Dont want to seem rude but you are worrying unnecessarily. Recommendations and safe limits for toxicity are very different things and also you have to remember you can go swimming in mercury and not absorb any if you have the correct calcium levels in your body and the same applies to lead. Running the taps for a few seconds means that there is no standing water in the pipework so no lead absorption. Nearly all of the treated water in the UK has lime added to make it pH neutral or alkaline so no acid dissolution of the lead pipework.

In short, for a baby there is going to be no pathway for the lead to get into its system. Boiling water used for formula feed will remove any lead, the high Ca levels of formula milk will prevent the uptake of the lead by the blood and bones and if your breast feed then you will have lost your teeth due to calcium deficiency before the lead you absorbed will have been passed on.

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Excerpt from draft WHO report:

In the United Kingdom in 1975–


1976, there was virtually no lead in the drinking-water in two thirds of households,


but levels were above 50 μg/l in 10% of homes in England and 33% in Scotland (2).


In Glasgow (Scotland), where the water was known to be plumbosolvent, the lead


concentration in about 40% of the samples exceeded 100 μg/l (19).


If a concentration of 5 μg/l in drinking-water is assumed, the total intake of lead from


this source can be calculated to range from 3.8 μg/day for an infant to 10 μg/day for


an adult.


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Answer to your question re compensation from LL - No. IMO

Has your toddler had his blood-lead levels monitored? Is he showing any signs of lead toxicity?

Can a causative link be established for drinking water, solely from that property?

I am guessing No, No, & No.



The UK standard for Lead &safe drinking water is in the order of 5 millionths of a g/litre.



Excerpt from draft WHO report


In the United Kingdom in 1975–1976, there was virtually no lead in the drinking-water in two thirds of households,




but levels were above 50 μg/l in 10% of homes in England and 33% in Scotland (2).

In Glasgow (Scotland), where the water was known to be plumbosolvent, the lead


concentration in about 40% of the samples exceeded 100 μg/l (19).

If a concentration of 5 μg/l in drinking-water is assumed, the total intake of lead from this source can be calculated to range from 3.8 μg/day for an infant to 10 μg/day for an adult.


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