Tasmanian Times


High Lead Levels Found in People Using Kingston Sheetmetal Stainless Steel Tanks


The Director of Public Health Dr Roscoe Taylor today renewed calls for people using Kingston Sheetmetal stainless steel water tanks to urgently contact authorities after blood tests returned elevated lead levels.

“Public Health alerted the public on March 1 to risks from these particular tanks and urged people who may be affected to contact us and discuss their health with their GP, including considering a blood test,” Dr Taylor said.

“We have now had 10 notifications of elevated blood test results for lead ,” Dr Taylor said.

“I urge anyone with a Kingston Sheetmetal stainless steel rainwater tank to contact the health department on 1800 671 738, even if they are not using the tank for drinking water, to help us account for all of the tanks.

“I want to make sure every last owner of these tanks is aware of the risk, but it is proving difficult to locate potential owners.”

Dr Taylor said the manufacturer’s records did not identify everyone who bought the tanks.

“Public Health has contacted about two-thirds of tank owners identified in the manufacturer’s records but at least 40 tanks remain unaccounted for.

“We have also had many calls from owners of standard galvanised tanks made by the same company – but these tanks are not affected in the same way.

“I stress our primary interest is to contact owners of Kingston Sheetmetal stainless steel tanks if we have not done so already.”

Dr Taylor warned people should immediately stop using water from Kingston Sheetmetal stainless steel tanks for drinking, brushing their teeth or preparing food.

“If you have been using these particular tanks for household drinking water, you should discuss blood lead testing with your GP.”

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a public health alert on March 1 after water tests found lead levels in tank water – well above safe drinking water guidelines of 10 micrograms per litre.

Further testing of water from these tanks has revealed unsafe lead levels in 20 tanks, some up to 100 times the guideline.

The water tanks were made and sold by Kingston Sheetmetal between March 2010 and January 2013.

Dr Taylor said water from the tanks was safe to use for cleaning and washing clothes and dishes, and for showering or bathing, but parents should supervise children to make sure they do not drink the water.

About 120 of these tanks have been sold to around 80 customers since March 2010, mostly to people in southern Tasmania.

Dr Taylor said the stainless steel rainwater tanks have no manufacturer’s label or marks and so must be identified by knowing where and when they were bought.

“Prolonged exposure to high levels of lead in drinking water could increase blood lead levels and cause a range of health problems.

“The risk is greatest for young children and pregnant women because of subtle effects on brain development.

“Boiling the water does not remove the lead and only certain filters reduce lead to levels safe for human consumption – people should check this with the filter manufacturer.”

Dr Taylor said depending on previous exposure to lead or other ongoing sources of exposure, blood lead levels should return to normal in the months following detection.

“While exposure to lead from these stainless steel rainwater tanks is unlikely to be enough to cause immediate harm, it is always important to minimise lead levels in blood as it accumulates and can lead to significant health harm,” Dr Taylor said.

Stainless steel tanks made using solder containing less than 0.1 per cent lead, or using other construction methods such as rivets and silicone sealant are not part of the public health warning.
Galvanised iron tanks made using leaded solder have not shown the same problems as those made of stainless steel.

For more information visit www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/peh/alerts or call 1800 671 738.

Earlier on Tasmanian Times: High lead levels in water tanks

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  1. Alison Bleaney

    March 22, 2013 at 2:07 am

    This was one of the stories on ABC 7.30 Report Tas tonight
    Fascinating…what have we all been drinking and who on earth would know!
    Equally fascinating in that it is not seen as a major public health issue across Tasmania with new checks and balances being instigated and policed!
    Indeed it is ‘Customer Beware’, and I trust everyone is using a carbon filter for their drinking and cooking water.
    Dr Alison Bleaney

  2. Oliver Strutt

    March 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    A facebook group has been formed as a place for those affected or concerned by the lead contamination of stainless steel water tanks in Tassie to share their stories and support one another.
    Please visit.

  3. Isla MacGregor

    March 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    For more information on proposed need to lower blood lead action levels to 5mcg/dl see tt today 18th March:


    Isla MacGregor
    Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network

  4. Ross Quinn

    March 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Having brought one of these tanks for use as my primary header tank, I assumed it was the safest and best option. Now I am unable to contact Kingston Sheet metal and consumer affairs tells me to consult legal advice? In these days of regulations was KS registered with any government department for the manufacture of drinking water tanks and if so who then becomes responsible for this blunder? I know Work Place Standards had inspected and ordered modifications to work shop practices in the week before I picked up my tank as the owner had bemoaned their recommendations to me. I too am not in a financial position to replace this tank and am wondering if I will receive a destruction order for this tank from a government department and if not why not? Are these tanks likely to stay in our community for future contamination? Awaiting blood tests

  5. Kylee Scott

    March 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks Simon (#04) – the tank liner option has been explored as a temporary solution but the supplier we talked to said that their liners cannot be used with the Kingston Sheetmetal tanks as they are too sharp inside.

    Interestingly another tank manufacturer informed us that the same solder has apparently been used on Kingston Sheetmetal’s galvanised tanks but without the same effect on the water’s lead levels. The galvanic corrosion is just particularly bad when the lead based solder is combined with stainless steel.

  6. sanguine

    March 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Do Public Health monitor water quality in all water tanks…or how did they discover that these tanks were dodgy and gave high lead levels in the water contained in the tanks? Are there any other tanks that will pollute the water in them with lead and so be a health hazard?
    How do we ( the public) know?
    How does Public Health know?
    Which water filters are best to use ..please can Public Health tell us.
    And I heard just recently that even in piped drinking water Public Health do not inform the public of raised lead levels unless they get two consecutively raised (above the drinking water guidelines that is) readings. Surely that cannot be correct as there may well be raised levels between testing, and how is a polluted person to know …let alone tell the doctor that lead may be a problem…that’s if they can even get an appointment to see a doctor. And the symptoms of lead toxicity at low levels seem so vague and non specific.
    Really it is ‘Consumer Beware’ for just about everything these days!

  7. K Bujora

    March 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I am very angry. I only found out today that my family 4 young children my Husband and I currently 22wks pregnant have been using 3 of these tanks for all our domestic water for two years. I now have around $11,000 worth of tanks we can’t use and no money to replace them. We are going for blood tests on Monday and hope to God that the results are not too serious. We brought these tanks thinking they were a healthy option and now hear that we have been poisoning ourselves by drinking out of them as well as using them for stock water. I don’t care if it was a mistake or not he should have had insurance. He has broken the law and needs to be acountable. What is the point of having laws … This could have very serious outcome for my family.

  8. Bob Hawkins

    March 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    For 20 years after my birth, I drank water that flowed to my house through lead pipes, yet, with three-quarters of a century behind me, I still seem to have most of my marbles. But I do wonder sometimes how much clearer my thinking might have been had I drawn my drinking water from the stream that ran through the un-chemicalised paddocks near my home. Now that we have identified the problem, we should make sure it doesn’t arise again, get on with our lives, and resist the temptation to go down the litigious US path. I imagine KS’s error was due to nothing more than sheer ignorance. And there’s plenty of that at high government and business levels in Tasmania that invariably goes unpunished.

  9. Simon Warriner

    March 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Kylee, your brother could investigate installing liners in those tanks. There is a business in Spreyton/Quioba area that sells them for use in leaking concrete tanks and I can see no reason they could not be made to work in this case.

    Still, he should not have to pay for them.

  10. Carol Rea

    March 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Ok Kingston Sheetmetal have supplied dodgy water tanks. But what about all the tanks we have been drinking from for years. What were the standards earlier. Do we need a statewide audit of water tanks? Maybe. The only online people who seem to do this are as follows and I have no idea if they are reliable. http://www.lead.org.au/clp/products/Do_It_Yourself_Lead_Safe_Test_Kits_Ad.html But the question remains – have we been drinking lead contaminated water for decades? Over to you Roscoe Taylor

  11. Dr Buck Emberg

    March 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    OK Dr Taylor…what are you doing about it? Do you have the support of EITHER major party?

  12. Kylee Scott

    March 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Whilst the DHHS has been very helpful over the last couple of weeks, the Consumer Affairs ‘hotline’ has been next to useless with responses varying from “Just send a registered post letter to Kingston Sheetmetal’s PO Box and you will get a refund sometime” to “We can’t help you consult your lawyer”.

    In my brother’s case, the two stainless steel tanks he installed in 2011 have thankfully hardly been used and any impact on his or his partner’s health is likely to be minimal.

    The two tanks will cost around $7000 to replace but, unless a number of affected tank owners work together and pool their resources, the expense of my brother individually engaging a lawyer to pursue the company owner for compensation is unlikely to stack up financially.

    I am so sorry to hear how many people have had their health affected by the Kingston Sheetmetal tanks and can only imagine how angry they must be right now. My brother chose to install stainless steel tanks thinking it was the healthiest option but it has turned out to be the worst.

    One of the questions we would really like answered is: Did the owner of Kingston Sheetmetal just make an innocent (albeit incredibly stupid) mistake or has he committed a criminal offence by knowingly using lead solder for the last 3 years?

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