If you're not the kind of person to use a filter on your tap water, you might want to reconsider. A new study has revealed that Canada's water has high lead content. The lead content in some cities is so high that it is even worse than Flint, Michigan, where there has been an ongoing crisis concerning water contamination.
The study, carried out by 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, tested water samples from 11 cities across Canada. What they found was that in a third of those cities, the amount of lead far exceeded the acceptable level set out by Health Canada (0.005mg per litre, or five parts per billion).
A 2017 federal parliamentary report found that at least 500,000 homes in Canada were still being serviced by lead pipes.
Water tested in several Canadian cities, including Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, and Prince Rupert, was found to contain lead levels even higher than in the city of Flint, Michigan.
Montreal, especially, had high levels of lead in its water supply. A comparative measurement between Montreal and Flint's drinking water found that Montreal's water, after a five-minute flushing of the pipes, contained an average of 7.3 ppb of lead compared to a sample from Flint after a three-minute flushing, with an average of 7.6 ppb. These samples were tested from homes serviced only by lead pipes.
Bruce Lanphear, a leading Canadian water safety researcher, said he was surprised by the findings. "These are quite high given the kind of attention that has been given to Flint, Michigan, as having such extreme problems," Lanphear said, according to the Globe and Mail.
"Even when I compare this to some of the other hotspots in the United States, like Newark, like Pittsburgh, the levels here are quite high."
According to the report, cities where lead in the water supply was a problem, said that it would take decades to replace all of the lead pipes. In addition, the cost of replacing pipes on private property would fall to the owners of that property.
The provinces are responsible for their own water testing, which means that cities are all testing for lead in different ways. Some of these methods are out of date, and only Ontario mandates water treatment when contamination has been identified.
Switching to filtered or bottled water might help to alleviate concerns among Canadians for the time being. However, even Toronto had trouble with contaminated bottled water.
Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only.