Manufacturers are exploring ways to address California AB 1953, which limits the weighted average lead content in pipe, fittings and fixtures used to convey drinking water to 0.25 percent on wetted surfaces.
It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010.
“All of our members are independently looking at how they will comply,” said Barbara Higgens, executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute. “Now that the bill is law, manufacturers are committed to obeying it and, though not easy, will design their products to meet the new requirements. We believe so strongly that the law must be obeyed that we have introduced our own legislation through Sen. Ron Calderon to require third-party certification to ensure compliance by all.”
At press time, the bill (S 1334) had passed both houses in California and was awaiting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature, according to Higgens.
Delta Faucet Co. already has introduced its patented DIAMOND Seal technology, an exclusive new water delivery system that eliminates contact with potential metal contaminants such as brass, copper or lead. The technology uses an integrated ceramic valve cartridge featuring one ceramic disc and one diamond-embedded ceramic disc, and InnoFlex waterways made using a proprietary blend of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) - a highly-engineered, very durable polymer material that is resistant to heat and freeze damage.
In addition, Delta Faucet has conducted free 90-minute informational seminars for California plumbers, builders, wholesalers and code officials to explain CA AB 1953 and its new water delivery technology.
“DIAMOND Seal Technology … meets the requirements of AB 1953, which will help pave the way for water delivery of the future,” said Rick Roetken, vice president of marketing at Delta Faucet. “Its lead-free waterway system is an important step toward meeting today’s needs.”
While Delta’s solution is truly lead-free, with no lead contact, the other new technologies will have to perform field tests, said Russ Wheeler, president of Hansgrohe. He noted that other Masco companies are going to lead-free brass or low-lead brass (below 0.25 percent).
“Eco-brass is a no-lead brand,” Wheeler noted. “The one we at Hansgrohe are switching to can be called lead-free because it is below the maximum level. It is more expensive than regular brass and harder to machine. All products must be recertified. We will start doing a rolling change in 2009.”
Lars Christensen, product manager at Hansgrohe, pointed out, “Many of our designs would not be able to use [Delta’s] lead-free technology.”
He cited as examples some of Hansgrohe’s kitchen mixer faucets that feature minimalist styling with bodies too small to accommodate Delta’s technology.
Chicago Faucets learned from its own research and conversations with its commercial customers that they were looking for a cast-brass product similar to what the company currently offers, according to John Fitzgerald, director of marketing.
“We will be introducing a line of faucets which we have named ECAST at the ASPE show in California in October,” he said. “We will announce our solution in September via direct mail. In the latter part of September our sales reps will blitz the entire state of California.”
Chicago Faucets refined some of the processes used in manufacturing the cartridge and some other components inside the faucet to comply with the lead-free requirement.
“We are the first company to have our products certified by IAPMO,” Fitzgerald noted. “Beginning in September, you will see our product listed on the IAPMO Web site as meeting the AB 1953 standard.”
American Standard intends to comply with the legislation without introducing plastic materials for high-pressure waterway components, according to Dave Meisner, vice president and general manager of American Standard faucets.
“American Standard has used permanent metal molds brass technology for more than 30 years, so we’ve long been a leader in lower lead-free brasscasting technology manufacturing,” he noted. “We’ve also been using ceramic disc technology since the 1970s. To comply with the new legislation to further reduce the small amounts of lead in faucets currently, we will modify the metal composition, thereby providing a product of superior quality and strength, not just replacing metal with plastic components.”
The applicable American Standard faucets will be converted to the new material process in early 2009, he added.
Sloan faucets meet or exceed all the requirements of NSF 61, Section 9, according to John Watson, director of technical services for Sloan Valve Co.
“Although Sloan faucets are exempt from current regulations, we’re committed to keeping up with low-lead requirements,” he said. “Blood lead levels in children and adults alike have dropped off substantially, and they continue to trend downward. In fact, lead levels are already well within the range recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies. Much of this success comes from the efforts of plumbing product manufacturers that have taken appropriate steps to lower the lead levels in their products.”
A spokeswoman for Danze said the company will be “in full compliance” with state and national requirements.
National Implications“We may see national legislation regarding leadfree in five to seven years,” said Chicago Faucets’ Fitzgerald. “It has to be put in the proper vernacular.
“History has a tendency to repeat itself,” he continued. “When California enacted Proposition 65, that led to a national lead standard. We expect the lower lead content requirement to be adopted throughout the United States.”
He noted that Vermont, Michigan and Washington are among the states that are considering this type of legislation.
“We expect there to be a consumer preference and consensus for ‘lead-free’ products independent of national legislation,” said Meisner, American Standard. “We would expect the development of an amendment to the national Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986 mirroring the experience of the 1996 California Proposition 65 legislation.”
PMI hopes this legislation does become national, provided a realistic compliance deadline is provided, Higgens said. “PMI is working toward the goal of enacting the California legislation nationally. Now that we have a template, we would like all states to adopt this protocol but with the enhancements of the PMI ‘cleanup’ bill to require third-party certification to ensure universal compliance. In addition, our template legislation tightens up some of the vague language and definitions of the California bill. We are working to avoid a patchwork of conflicting product material requirements.”