Unleading Belfast’s Water: Community Science as Empowerment

We are a team of researchers from Queen’s University Belfast. Our names are Tristan, Jeremy and Nuala.


We want to find out more about how much lead there is in the water supply in Belfast.

In a small random sample of the drinking water of 35 houses in Belfast, we found significant exceedances of lead. 15% of houses tested above the "reference" or policy limit of 10ug/L. Four samples were above 50ug/L and one was as high as 95ug/L, which is nearly 10x the limit. We want to expand this study to test more homes. 


We are interested in lead because it can be dangerous to human health. It can affect the brain, kidneys and heart and is linked to cancers.


Lead water pipes were common in homes built in Belfast before 1970. In this project we want to get water samples from houses built before 1970.


We would like you to take part in a project to test the water in your home for lead. You can take part in our study if:


  • Your residence (house, flat etc) is in Belfast

  • Your residence was built before 1970

  • You agree to follow all the instructions carefully


If you decide to take part we will need you to give us two water samples, taken at the same time. There are instructions about how to do this on page 3. By taking part in the research you will learn more about your own domestic water supply.


You do not have to take part in the study. If you decide to take part and then change your mind, that is OK. You do not need to tell us why.


If you want to take part, we will ask you to read this information carefully. We will check you understand it, and ask you to sign a consent form when we pick up the water samples. When you give us the consent form, you will be issued with a unique code which will be associated with your water sample. Results of the test will be published with this code and postcode only. Your identity and the location of the sample will be anonymised. That means we cannot identify you from your sample. It is a way to respect your privacy.


The results of the tests will be made available on two dates: 15th of August 2022 and 15th of December 2022, depending on when the sample was submitted. We will be available to discuss the results.


Knowledge of elevated lead levels in a participant’s water sample report could potentially cause mental health issues, such as stress, worrying, or aggravate existing mental health issues, such as anxiety. For support (for example if you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water please see the links available on our support page: 


If you have any further queries about the research process, please contact Dr. Tristan Sturm on t.sturm@qub.ac.uk. Should you remain unhappy and wish to make a formal complaint, you can contact the Research Governance Team at Queen’s University Belfast (Email: researchgovernance@qub.ac.uk).

Join us in our efforts to help our community.