The European Drinking Water Directive of 1998 tightened overall standards for drinking water in Europe. As a result, steps have been taken in England and Wales to reduce lead concentrations and mitigate lead poisoning in drinking water.
Lead in drinking water can cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children, exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.
Lead pipes were used in the UK up to the 1980s both for connecting a property to the water supply main and for internal plumbing, due to lead’s strength, malleable nature and resistance to corrosion. In the UK, about 40% of properties are supplied via a lead pipe. Elsewhere in Europe, the estimated percentage of properties supplied by lead pipe-work varies from 5% to 50%.