HSE to test water for lead in hospitals
Water supplies serving more than 3,700 public health buildings are to be tested for lead contamination.
Health bosses have sought experts to carry out sampling and testing to see if patients, staff and the public are at risk of lead poisoning in medical facilities across the State.
The HSE plans on testing water supplies for some of the country's biggest hospitals, including St James's in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, Merlin Park in Galway and Letterkenny General Hospital in Donegal.
But sampling will also be carried out at primary healthcare centres, offices and nursing homes.
The move comes after Irish Water last week warned that 180,000 homes and "thousands" of buildings in the public sector were likely to draw their drinking water through lead pipes.
Most of these buildings were constructed up to the 1970s when this type of piping was commonly installed.
Because lead affects the developing brain, young children, infants and babies in the womb are most at risk from prolonged exposure.
The legal limit for lead in drinking water now stands at 10 microgrammes per litre, having dropped from 50 microgrammes per litre in 1988, as part of a plan to reduce lifetime exposure.
Irish Water plans to spend €370m replacing lead service pipes over the next decade, and another €78m on a special chemical treatment in 400 drinking water plants which will reduce the public health risk.
However, this spend will not cover the cost of replacing internal pipework, which will have to be borne by the State in the case of public buildings, or by individual homeowners or businesses.
The HSE said the contractors would cover the HSE and organisations it funded.
Tender documents show that services are required at 49 acute hospitals and at more than 3,000 locations nationwide.
Irish Water is currently undertaking a national survey of most at-risk areas.