BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC Scotland's Sally McNair reports
"When the Fyfes moved into their home, Brandon was a healthy child"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
Lead contamination risk fears
Michael and Brandon Fyfe
Michael Fyfe, pictured with his young son Brandon
 Click here to watch the programme

Hundreds of new homes in Scotland could be at risk from lead contamination in their water, an investigation by BBC Frontline has revealed.

The programme found a family in Uddingston had traced the route of their child's illness to lead solder in water pipes.

That is despite the fact that lead piping in water supplies is illegal.

Catherine Fyfe
Catherine Fyfe: Shocked at lead discovery
Brandon Fyfe began feeling ill when he and his parents, Michael and Catherine, moved into their new Tilbury Douglas home just before Christmas 1998.

Mr Fyfe said: "He'd always been an active wee boy, he was always into something, just a normal young lad I would say, always up to mischief and the usual.

"But he started becoming really nauseous and tired, and not wanting to play, very anaemic, sore heads, sick, every night - and it was constant, it wasn't getting any better."

Doctors prescribed antibiotics, but could not find the cause of the illness.

It was Mr and Mrs Fyfe who soon deduced that their son became ill after using water from a particular tap in the bathroom.

High lead levels

They contacted West of Scotland Water and Glasgow's Environmental Health Department.

Samples were taken - one from the kitchen sink and one from the en-suite wash basin.

Initially they were told nothing was wrong but, within days, the family got a phone call out of the blue saying there was very high lead levels in the water.

The maximum legal limit is 50 micrograms of lead per litre of water. The level in the Fyfe's en-suite wash hand basin was seven and a half times that - 382 micrograms.

I think it's probably much more widespread. We don't have any reason to suggest that it's simply a Glasgow problem

Dr Helen Irvine
And Brandon had been brushing his teeth there every night. Over the next few weeks subsequent testing revealed even higher levels.

Based on the Fyfe's experience, Frontline carried out a random survey on 95 new homes in the West of Scotland in which it discovered that 10 of them had levels of lead in the water supply which were over the legal limit.

They were on different estates with different builders.

And Greater Glasgow Health Board believes the problem could be much more widespread.

The board's Dr Helen Irvine said: "I think it's probably much more widespread. We don't have any reason to suggest that it's simply a Glasgow problem.

"But here we have evidence that many different plumbing contractors, and many different builders are involved with this problem. "

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

03 Nov 98 | Health
Clampdown on water bugs
20 Oct 98 | Health
Cemeteries pollute water supply
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories