M-69: Addressing the Federal Government’s role in dealing with clean and safe drinking water
Lead is often considered a problem of the past; however, the recent state of emergency in Flint, Michigan and growing research surrounding lead toxicity are bringing the issue back into the limelight. The scope of the problem is difficult to estimate, as many cities are unaware of the amount of households containing lead service lines. Homes constructed before 1960 are more likely to contain lead pipes, and most large cities across Canada were settled before 1950. Water toxicity experts agree there are hundreds of thousands of households at risk of lead exposure across Canada.
The Canadian guideline for the maximum allowable concentration of lead in drinking water is 0.010 mg/L, or 10 parts per billion. However, according to the World Health Organization, no amount of lead consumption is considered safe. Exposure to lead can have negative impacts on the brain, kidneys, and bones, with an increased risk of hypertension in adults and lower IQ scores and behavioural issues in unborn babies, infants and children.
Various provincial Acts set testing standards to measure chemicals in drinking water, and Ontario’s legislation also makes it mandatory for older daycares and schools to be tested. Testing legislation is not the same in every province, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia recently found elevated levels of lead in four schools.
Experts recommend two solutions for reducing lead in water:
Many municipalities across Canada do not have both solutions in place, and some toxicity experts such as Bruce Lanphear, a professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, argue Canada is still far behind the United States when it comes to tracking lead levels and legislating safe conditions. He says the way in which Canada regulates toxins assumes there is a safe level, which fails to protect our children. Canada also needs to improve its communications strategies to ensure citizens understand the dangers of lead exposure, and are aware of areas that may contain lead pipes and the importance of water testing and pipe replacement initiatives.
MP Bratina’s motion requests the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to undertake a study on the federal government’s role in addressing the growing concern of lead pipes and water quality in residences across Canada.
This study is set to begin on Tuesday June 6th, 2017.
© 2019 Bob Bratina. All rights reserved.