Drinking water in more than half of 100 older Toronto homes tested last summer exceeded the acceptable level of lead — nearly nine times as many as in the previous study.

While water officials attribute the spike to warm weather in the second round of tests, high lead levels at the tap highlight a longstanding problem with lead service lines leading to homes in older parts of the city.

Those aging pipes, installed sometime before 1955, could be putting up to 65,000 households at risk.

When the first-ever round of provincially mandated testing on homes with lead service lines was done between December 2007 and April 2008, only six of the 100 homes tested had levels above the provincial standard of 10 parts per billion.

But the second round of tests, last July to October, found water in 52 homes exceeded that level. One reading was as high as 82 parts per billion — eight times the acceptable level.
Toronto Water blames the difference in the two rounds of tests on the effects of warmer weather, which causes more corrosion of lead pipes.

“Lead is like any metal; it corrodes. Bits of it release into water at microscopic levels. When the water is warmer this process happens more rapidly,” Toronto Water general manager Lou Di Gironimo said. He expects the numbers to drop in a new round of testing now underway.

Homeowners whose readings were high were notified, along with public health officials.
Dr. Howard Shapiro, associate medical officer of health, doesn’t believe there’s cause for panic.

“The summer is when it’s at its worst. Actual exposure over the year will be less than that,” Shapiro said.

But he added public health officials will be getting out the word: “We need to do more communication with people about this issue because it is more widespread.”
Testing was done on ho­mes built before the 1950s in older parts of Toronto, Scarborough and Etobicoke.

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