Public health risks associated with heavy metal and microbial contamination of drinking water in Australia

Paul J. Molino, Richard Bentham, Michael J. Higgins, Jason Hinds, Harriet Whiley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


Recently in Australia concerns have been raised regarding the contamination of municipal drinking water supplies with lead. This is of particular concern to children due to the impact of lead exposure on cognitive development and as such these findings have received much media attention. The response from legislators has been swift, and The Victorian School Building Authority has announced that all new schools and school upgrade works will only use lead-free tapware and piping systems. However, while the immediate replacement of lead-containing brass fittings may seem a logical and obvious response, it does not consider the potential implications on microbial contamination. This is particularly concerning given the increasing public health threat posed by opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens (OPPPs). This commentary explores this public health risk of lead exposure from plumbing materials compared to the potential public health risks from OPPPs. Non-tuberculous mycobacterium was chosen as the example OPPP, and the influence on plumbing material and its public health burden in Australia is explored. This commentary highlights the need for future research into the influence of plumbing material on OPPPs prior to any changes in legislation regarding plumbing material.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3982
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


  • Brass
  • Lead
  • Legionella spp
  • Non-tuberculous mycobacterium
  • Opportunistic pathogens
  • Plumbing material
  • Policy
  • Pseudomonas spp
  • Stainless steel


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