Water sample testing at schools in various communities in Northern B.C. have established the presence of elevated lead concentration levels.
Drinking water generally does not contain lead and if lead is present in water, the concentrations are very low.
The elevated levels found in affected schools are the result of the combination of characteristics typical of water found in coastal communities (slight acidity, low alkalinity, and softness), plumbing materials that contain lead or brass and extended contact time between the water and plumbing materials.
Elevated lead levels can impact health specifically in young children and pregnant women.
Northern Health is currently providing information and advice to the affected school districts to ensure mitigation strategies are implemented.
According to Northern Health, the health impacts of lead exposure depend on many factors including the frequency, duration and dose of the exposure to a variety of lead sources, as well as individual factors such as age, previous exposure history, nutrition and health.
Even in small amounts, lead can harm the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children. Long-term exposure may increase the risk of subtle impairments of cognitive development, behavior, growth patterns and sexual maturation of children.
Northern Health says that even though there is no evidence of children being adversely affected in B.C., it is still important to reduce population lead exposure.
Northern Health recommends that local governments carry out ongoing monitoring of lead levels in the drinking water supply within residential and non-residential buildings.
If elevated lead levels are found, the water system operator needs to send an annual notification to customers so that they may have their pipes flushed to reduce lead levels.
Northern Health will continue the adoption of long-term solutions to mitigate the risk of public exposure to elevated lead levels in drinking water.
According to Northern Health, it is their commitment to ensure that the water provided in Northern B.C. residents is safe.
They will continue to work closely with water system operators supporting measure and efforts to local governments to obtain grants to help fund, develop and implement measures for reducing lead levels in drinking water.
For more information, contact: Public Health Protection at (250) 567-6900 in Vanderhoof.