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Ensuring climate change adaptation avoids increased health risks from drinking-water copper exposure

Air Quality and Climate Change
Volume 48 Issue 2 (May 2014)

Abstract: Health risks associated with copper exposure through drinking water are well described, but the exposure-risk scenario may change in future decades due to human-induced climate change. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, a direct result of burning fossil fuels, can be expected to lower the pH of ambient dry air, and lead to rainwater becoming increasingly acidic. Such acidity is problematic given that copper water supply pipes are commonly used in countries such as Australia. This is because, in contrast to some town water supplies, pH controls are not normally applied to private on-site rainwater tanks, and more acidic water may lead to greater corrosion of copper water pipes in buildings. Use of such tanks is also likely to increase as water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, exacerbated in some regions by geographic redistribution of rainfall due to climate change. In Australia, for example, the use of tanks as a sole potable water source is already relatively common, particularly in rural/remote areas. The continued use of copper piping for domestic rainwater supplies should therefore be reviewed, particularly considering a climate changerelated scenario of wider use of rainwater tanks for private water supplies and increased atmospheric CO2 levels. The risk due to the stasis of increasingly acidic drinking water in copper pipes can be reduced by using other than copper watersupply pipes to the taps in buildings, by applying pH controls to town water supplies, or in the case of private on-site rainwater tanks, countering low pH levels of collected water by using concrete (rather than plastic or corrugated steel).

To cite this article: Walls, KL; Walls, HL; Benke, GP and McMichael, AJ. Ensuring climate change adaptation avoids increased health risks from drinking-water copper exposure [online]. Air Quality and Climate Change, Vol. 48, No. 2, May 2014: 17-24. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=459405722976786;res=IELENG> ISSN: 1836-5884. [cited 29 Apr 17].

Personal Author: Walls, KL; Walls, HL; Benke, GP; McMichael, AJ; Source: Air Quality and Climate Change, Vol. 48, No. 2, May 2014: 17-24 DOI: Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1836-5884 Subject: Climatic changes--Environmental aspects; Water--Pollution--Health aspects; Drinking water; Rainwater; Copper; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Building Code Consultants Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand
(2) London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health and National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University
(3) Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University
(4) National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University

Database: Engineering Collection