Lead water crisis reveals federal government’s inaction on water issues

Council of Canadians

Earlier this week, an investigative report by several media outlets revealed  dangerously high levels of lead in tap water across Canada.  This investigation took a combined effort from 120 journalists, working at nine universities and 10 media organizations across the country. They reported that millions of Canadians are exposed to this neurotoxin through the aging lead pipes that distribute water from municipal water treatment plant to households across 11 cities. 

This is a public health crisis. The World Health Organization states there is no safe level of lead. This toxic metal is damaging to human health, with long-term and irreversible effects to brain and nervous systems. It causes developmental and behavioural changes in children and increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney disease in adults.

While this latest discovery got a lot of media attention this week, it’s just a piece in a larger issue with Canada’s drinking water. The United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation in 2010. Although Canada joined the international consensus in 2012, the fundamental right to clean, safe drinking water is not being consistently and effectively delivered. There are no federally-mandated drinking water standards and only a patchwork of regulations that varies among provinces

Water testing standards and practices vary greatly across the country, and are even nonexistent in some provinces. Meanwhile, the public remains largely in the dark about the quality of their drinking water. This is unacceptable at a time when higher standards are the norm in other countries, and there are no shortage of lessons to learn from

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