HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc491-2W
Mrs. Organ

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures he is taking to revise drinking water regulations in England, following the requirement to implement the new EC Drinking Water Directive by December 2003. [120067]

Mr. Mullin

My Department has today issued a consultation paper setting out proposals to bring standards for drinking water supplied by English water companies into line with those set out in the new EC Drinking Water Directive. Responses are invited by 30 June 2000.

The quality of drinking water is a vital element of public health. Its overall quality in England and Wales is very high. Of the nearly three million tests carried out on drinking water in 1998, 99.78 per cent. met the required standard. The new regulations will revise and tighten standards to take account of the latest scientific and medical advice. The most important change proposed is a reduction from 50μg/1 to 10μg/1 by 2013 in the maximum permitted concentration of lead in drinking water. This change is in accordance with the latest World Health Organisation guidelines and is introduced primarily to protect unborn children and infants. Neuro toxic effects from exposure to excessive levels of lead are known to contribute to problems in learning and behaviour and to slightly lower IQs.