Aldi tap installed in 12000 homes suspected of contaminating drinking water

Test results reveal it contaminated water with high amounts of lead.

Aldi's $79.99 Easy Home spiral spring mixer tap has been found to contaminate the water that runs through it with 15 times the maximum allowable limit of lead, according to a report from the Courier Mail.

Estimates suggest 12,000 homes in Australia have installed the Chinese-manufactured tap sold by the budget supermarket chain, leading to health warnings and ongoing investigations.

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"There is cause for concern," says Brett Bassett, the head of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), which identified the threat and commissioned the testing.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has cautioned the public on using the tap. "If there is a risk that consumer goods may cause injury the ACCC expects suppliers and manufacturers to put voluntary recalls in place to protect consumers," a spokesman was quoted as saying.

Testing was carried out by Queensland Health's Forensic and Scientific Services on a single tap, but the concerning results have led to the ACCC launching an investigation.

Additional testing will be undertaken, which will include taps being broken apart to determine the lead contained in the brass parts.

Aldi Australia says customers unsatisfied with the tap are "welcome to return it to the store for a full refund".

"Aldi is liaising with the responsible authorities and our supplier to investigate the matter with utmost urgency. If at any stage test results confirm that chemical parameters do not meet regulatory requirements, Aldi will take appropriate action," a spokesperson told CHOICE.

"It was independently tested and confirmed to comply with Australian standards prior to going on sale," she adds.

The spiral spring mixer tap went on sale as an Aldi special buy a month ago on 10 June. 

Earlier testing found it cleared Australian standards. The International Association for Plumbing and Mechanical Officials certified the tap after it came under the lead limit by a factor 9.5 times.

The taps were made by Zhejiang Keen Faucet Co, a company based in China, 300km south of Shanghai.

Aldi has a concentrated store presence across the east coast of Australia. It is estimated 3000 of the taps are installed in households in Queensland, with the bulk of the remaining 9000 to be found in NSW and Victorian households.

Lead interferes with the production of protein in blood that transports oxygen. The effects vary wildly, from experiencing shortness of breath during physical activity to death in high levels.

Updated 12:06pm: A statement provided by Aldi Australia was added.

Update, 27 July: Independent testing commissioned by Aldi has found the tap in question is safe to use and does not contain lead.