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V o lu m e 1 0 Is s u e 4 A u g ust 2000

Pre sident s p a ge
he Human Rights Act will come into force on 2 O ctober. W e must ask ourselves if we are ready for this. How will it affect us as personal injury lawyers? W e will need to be alert to the challenges it presents and not be deflected from our duty to our clients by the negative indications we are receiving from the judiciary. The Government is expecting an upturn in work and Jack Straw has announced that 60 million has been set aside to deal with this. There are various sections of the Act, which may apply to personal injury actions. The most obvious is the breach of the right to a fair trial. If a claimants right to a fair trial is compromised because of the judges exercise of his wide powers under the C PR, by limiting the evidence given for example, we must be prepared to take action. I urge APIL members who take actions under this new legislation to share their experiences with the APIL office so that we can all benefit. W e must not forget that APIL exists to promote the interests of injured people and we must not flinch from tackling new legislation on their behalf. The consultation paper proposing the introduction of an offence of corporate killing is very welcome. APIL has long campaigned for the concept of health and safety to be at the core of a companys business and not something uneasily tacked on as an afterthought. Many companies are extremely conscientious, but others take advantage of the inaction of the H ealth and Safety Executive. It is to be hoped that the prospect of being prosecuted and possibly sent to jail as a result of the death of an employee hopefully will focus the minds of directors on the importance of ensuring their employees safety. APIL has responded to the consultation paper, welcoming the thrust of the proposals, but with many helpful suggestions for improvement! W e can be proud that our efforts have brought us this far, but it is important that the momentum of this change is not lost and that we continue to campaign so that parliamentary time is found to ensure that the proposals reach the statute books. The personal injury working party has been working on a protocol for disease and illness claims and the drafting has now been completed and is out for consultation. The personal injury protocol was never intended to deal with disease claims and the new protocol introduces a process whereby the claimant can get access to occupational health records in a procedure similar to that contained in the clinical negligence protocol. Much more information is to be provided in the first letter and the procedure with regard to medical evidence is very much more flexible than in the personal injury protocol. The protocol attempts to cover all cases arising from disease or illness which have not been caused by a single event which will include asbestosrelated diseases, dermatitis, noise-induced deafness, stress at work, work-related upper limb disorder, vibration white finger and occupational asthma. Copies of the protocol can be obtained from the Law Society, Lord Chancellors D epartment and the APIL office and comments from APIL members will be very welcome. I discussed the protocol with the occupational health SIG and the comments made there were most helpful. Practitioners input is always vital in these matters if a protocol is to be produced which will work effectively. These remain challenging times, with much to grapple with, but at least we have the comfort of at last being able to enter into conditional fee agreements with confidence, so that we carry on with our work, learning and adapting to the new Woolf culture.

Chief executives report and E update N ews The role of the D isability D iscrimination Act in personal injury claims by Keith C arter Human rights and return of leg aid for personal injury cases? by Edward Grayson Rehabilitation and return to work: rebuilding lives after an injury by Paul Doherty Lead contamination of water the hidden threat by Prof Robert Jackson A new journal for a new era by Andrew Ritchie C ase notes Letters APIL assistance Articles from journals D iary

Frances McCarthy, President

Le a d cont a m in a t ion of w a ter - the h idden thre a t


Professor Robert Jackson
As the protection of public health is fundamental to water quality, the maintenance of the highest possible standards of safety and quality are absolute priorities for water supply companies. Lead is not a natural contaminant in surface or ground water and is rarely in source water. Extensive treatment processes remove harmful chemicals and microorganisms from water abstracted from a range of sources including streams, rivers, lakes and boreholes. In eliminating any possible health risks, water is treated to remove faecal and coliform bacteria and treated potable water is virtually lead free on leaving the mains supply. However, lead contamination, like fluoridation, is a matter of concern and its concentration is monitored. The principal concern is centred around the fact that water can dissolve lead from the supply pipes between the mains supply and the tap. In the UK, water quality is regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate which initiates enforcement action on behalf of the Secretary of State under the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 1989 made under sections 67-69 of the Water Industry Act 1991. These were passed to incorporate the EC Drinking Water D irective 80/778/EEC which related to the quality of water intended for human consumption. Under the regulations water companies have to provide " wholesome" water and the regulations prescribe standards of wholesomeness for water which is to be used for drinking, washing or cooking. Water is only wholesome if it contains concentrations or values, which do not contravene prescribed maximum and in some case minimum values and the amount of lead allowed in UK water is 50 ug/l (micrograms per litre). Like other inorganic chemicals, lead can often appear in chemical forms that are quite harmless, but it is the soluble salts of inorganic lead that are strong systemic poisons with poisoning able to occur through the ingestion of water from lead pipes. To combat this problem treatment methods are often revised to include the addition of phosphate which reduces the ability of water to dissolve lead and soldered joints. Lead can be a health risk if consistently consumed over a number of years with chemical injury through poisoning characterised through the poison's ability to cause damage at particular sites within the body. Lead is probably the most ubiquitous metal poison and, like mercury it is toxic to the nervous system and kidney with the extent of damage depending upon the exposure. As a cumulative toxin it can induce adverse effects on mental development and behaviour and since the body's ability to eliminate lead is poor, chronic ingestion of non-toxic amounts can result in a build up that may eventually reach toxic levels. D eaths from lead poisoning are rare but it is not unusual for a child's blood to contain enough lead to cause intellectual and developmental delay, kidney disease and anaemia. Young children, infants and foetuses absorb lead five times faster than adults, with children absorbing 40-50 per cent of the lead that gets into their mouths compared with 10 per cent in adults. Foetuses are particularly vulnerable and there is now strong evidence linking stillbirth to the exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead in drinking water. Even small amounts of lead can produce a high concentration in the blood of young children because their bodies are small and since children's brains are still developing, the effect of lead poisoning can be especially damaging. Consumption of tap water containing high levels of lead which has leached from pipes raises risks for elevated lead in later life with lead in drinking water, absorbed by up to 30-50 per cent higher than lead in food, accumulating in bones over decades. A gradual accumulation of lead in body tissues is as a result of repeated exposure to lead-contaminating substances. In the home, the main sources of lead poisoning are usually lead-based paints and drinking water carried through lead pipes. Individual susceptibility to lead poisoning varies widely

with symptoms varying and developing gradually or appearing suddenly after chronic exposure. The poison affects the entire body, in particular the nervous system, and may result in lead colic, anaemia and paralysis. Most home based problems with water quality are associated with corrosion of pipework and storage tanks leading to contamination of the water supply by lead, copper, zinc and iron. Galvic corrosion usually occurs when different metals are coupled together and the most common problem is where a piece of copper pipe is used to replace a small section of lead pipe. The copper becomes a cathode and the lead pipe becomes an anode resulting in the lead pipe corroding away releasing metal into the water. Lead was formerly used as plumbing pipe material and until the 1930s was the only material available for small diameter underground pipes. Most houses built before 1964 will have some lead piping and fittings. Those built before 1939 will have extensive lead pipework and millions of houses still have lead pipes connecting the house to the water mains. Today however, there is a campaign throughout the EC to replace lead service pipes and lead supply pipes are being replaced by water companies with ongoing customer

replacement of private pipe-work supported by efforts to reline small bore pipes in-situ. Lead is odourless, colourless and tasteless making it highly undetectable when there are high concentrations of it in drinking water. Lead is not removed by boiling and becomes concentrated with higher levels found in kettles that are not fully emptied before refilling. Consequently, many people remain at risk and the Drinking Water D irective is at present in the process of being revised with proposals being considered by the European Parliament. The extent of any revisions and the possible time scale for the changes is at present not certain but there is the likelihood of a stricter lead standard with an interim standard of 25ug/l, to be achieved five years after adoption, and a final standard of 10ug/l after 15 years.

Professor Robert Jackson As a Forensic Expert in water and the environment and a member of the Academy of Experts he regularly acts as an independent expert witness for clients throughout the UK.