California Learns Tough Realities of its New Lead Law
February 1, 2007
First, the good news: There is a faucet that complies with California’s new legal lockdown on the amount of lead contained in faucets sold for sale in the state.
Now, the bad news: The faucet, stainless steel inside and out, wholesales in Europe for $670. The worse news: The pricey product is made-to-order and was never meant to be mass-produced. The worst news: American plumbing manufacturers say they won’t have anything that comes close to meeting the law when it goes into effect in 2010.
The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI), along with other opponents of the lead limits, such as the California Association of Local Building Officials and the California Building Industry Association, warned legislators of just such a dilemma throughout last year’s legislative session.
PMI discovered the unlikely European alternative through a survey sent to more than 40 attendees of a joint roundtable meeting held along with the Copper Development Association last December. Most notably, the roundtable included presentations by executives of the American Foundry Society and the Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society.
Bismuth, for example, was one such alloy that proponents of the legislation presented as a viable alternative to leaded brass used for faucets. However, the American Foundry Society had had its own meeting on the matter last fall and raised a couple of troublesome concerns. For one thing, the society doubted that there was enough bismuth mined around the world to replace the amount of brass used for the United States faucet market. Bismuth is not economical to mine as a primary product. Rather, it is usually produced as a byproduct of the processing of other metal ores-especially, ironically enough, lead.
Besides the doubtful supply was the limited lifespan of products using bismuth alloys.
PMI contends there are other areas of concerns about the bill. For example, how the law will be enforced remains unclear. On the distribution side, Higgens added that the bill contains no provisions for existing inventory. And while 2010 is just three years away, manufacturers would have to start selling an alternative by 2009-which gives the industry that much less time to address the issue.