Commission set up to investigate lead in Hong Kong water as more shocking test results flood in

A two-person commission has been set up to investigate findings of high lead levels in the water supply of some of Hong Kong’s public housing estates.

As testing continues, there are so far 10 estates confirmed to have been affected by heavy metal water contamination, with recent data showing that lead levels exceed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) safety standard of 10 micrograms per litre at several locations.

With 153 micrograms per litre, Un Chau Estate’s eight-year-old Un Kin House is leading this scandal with a whopping 14.3 times more lead than the WHO standard, reports the SCMP.

According to Derrick Au, Hospital Authority’s director of quality and safety, city-wide blood tests revealed that ten residents, all children, were found to have 5.3 to 7.9 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood. Children whose blood contains more lead than the WHO standard of 5 micrograms per decilitre could be exposed to the irreversible effects of learning disabilities.

In response to the scandal, Judge Andrew Chan and former ICAC commissioner Alan Lai Nin have now been charged with restoring the public’s trust in Hong Kong’s water by ultimately uncovering the causes of high lead contamination, analysing the competence of the monitoring system and finally offering water safety recommendations.

Over the next two months, authorities aim to test the water supply of public housing estates built between 2005 and 2010. The findings will be reported in around nine months’ time, Chief Executive CY Leung said.

But are Hong Kong residents comfortable with waiting so long?

Rachel, a 25-year-old living in Kowloon, worries that a commission limited to two people will not be successful. “Water in Hong Kong recently has become a big issue, and it’s necessary for the government to take action,” she told Coconuts Hong Kong.

Lorraine, who lives in Mid-levels, agreed that “the government should do something immediately because water pollution is a serious issue’.

While the scandal has so far been contained in public housing estates and a university campus, some fear that private buildings could also be affected..

Lingo, who lives Shau Kei Wan, contacted his building’s management team when he heard rumours of estates in Mid-levels with water contamination. His water was tested and confirmed as safe to drink.

Virginia, a 35-year-old Wan Chai resident, however, thinks the panic may be unwarranted. “Perhaps people should talk to their water supplier. I think the news may be too dramatic because my friend is an architect, and he said it a normal problem”.

If you’d like to get your building’s water tested, take two samples (300 mililitres each) from your tap – one immediately after turning it on and the other after waiting two to eight minutes. Take these to an accredited laboratory, like the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Centre, that tests drinking water. You’ll know within a couple of working days if your water supply is safe.

Photo: Steve Johnson via Flickr

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