Lead contamination levels up to 80 times the legal limit have been detected in drinking water in Dublin.
Irish Water has identified the 20 homes in the capital where the highest levels of lead, ranging from five to 80 times the legal limit set by the EU, have been found.
Consumption of lead can affect brain development, with young children, infants and "babies in the womb" most at risk, according to the HSE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Lead may also harm kidneys, may contribute to high blood pressure and has been linked to cancer, according to a joint paper from the State agencies.
Dublin drinking water supplies do not contain lead when they leave treatment plants and there are no longer any lead water mains. However, for many years lead was used in “service connections”, the pipes running from the public mains to houses, and routinely used in the plumbing of homes up to the mid 1970s.
“Therefore, all properties of that age and older should be suspected of having lead piping unless the plumbing has been replaced,” Irish Water said.
The legal limit of lead in drinking water was reduced from 25 micrograms per litre to 10 micrograms in 2013. However according to subsequent advice from the HSE and the EPA: “No level of lead in drinking water is now considered to be completely safe.”
Irish Water conducts random sampling of “customer properties” to ensure compliance with regulations. A spokeswoman said lead was only one of the substances tested for so it was not possible to say how many homes in Dublin were tested for lead and exceeded the legal limits.
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show some tests where lead contamination was far in excess of safe levels.
Of the 20 homes with the highest lead levels, 14 were in Raheny, with tests on one home on Watermill Drive showing levels of 825 micrograms per litre. The second highest reading was in Vernon Grove, Clontarf, at 123 micrograms per litre.
The remaining houses in the top five were all in Raheny, but the sixth highest reading was in Ranelagh where levels of 97 micrograms were recorded in Chelmsford Road.
Sampling location (Level mg/l)
Watermill Drive, Raheny (825)
Vernon Grove, Clontarf (123 )
Maryville Road, Raheny (111 )
Watermill Drive, Raheny (103)
All Saints Road, Raheny (102 )
Chelmsford Road, Ranelagh (97)
Watermill Road, Raheny (93 )
Stiles Road, Clontarf (86 )
St Anne’s Ave, Raheny (85)
Ballyshannon Ave, Coolock (81)
Power’s Court, Dublin (79 )
Balally Drive, Dundrum (72)
All Saints Road, Raheny (71)
St Anne’s Dr, Raheny (68 )
Maryville Rd, Raheny (67 )
Watermill Dr, Raheny (67 )
All Saints Rd, Raheny (65 )
Maryville Ave, Raheny (63)
Maryville Rd, Raheny (61 )
Watermill Ave, Raheny (58)
Legal limit : 10