Taking the Lead in a Lead-Free World

Australian Standards allow for a much higher amount of lead to be used in plumbing fixtures compared to the likes of Europe and the United States.

One of the major reasons Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in this area is that there isn’t a globally-recognised maximum level for lead-free type alloys.


Yes, lead is an extremely malleable material which can be critical to plumbers out there who need this flexibility in their day-to-day work, but research is finding that it can be harmful when used for drinking water.

A recent publication dubbed ‘Lead in Plumbing Products and Materials’, commissioned by the Australian Building Codes Board and run by Macquarie University investigated the issue of lead levels in drinking water. It found several readings beyond the allowable 0.01mg/L outlined in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

“Notwithstanding the finding that lead can contaminate drinking water from both mains and premise piping, replacement of the tap with a ‘lead-free’ alternative reduces the potential burden of lead at the point of delivery,” the report recommended.

There have even been some high-profile incidents surrounding lead poisoning including an incident at the Perth Children’s Hospital and in public drinking fountains in Geelong and Warrnambool in Victoria.

But since there are no requirements to mandate the use of lead-free products, the onus is on plumbers and architects to cut down on their usage. Is this fair? That’s a debate for another day, but there are solutions on the Australian market to cut down on lead in pipes.

The RBA Group, an Australian-owned plumbing solutions provider, has made significant progress in this area and has been developing lead-free solutions for the Australian market for some time.

“The lead-free aspect and the small premium that those solutions command has meant that while the issue of lead-free had not been as broadly topical as it is today in Australia,” RBA Group development manager Tim Fischer said.

“However, the recent issues widely reported are now providing increased recognition for progressive solutions such as those from RBA. Our materials choices include US certified lead-free alloys, engineering plastics and stainless steel, all of which are Watermark certified and WELS registered where applicable.”

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