Low-lead and lead-free items grab spotlight

In recent weeks, the issue of low-lead and lead-free plumbing products has gained both industry and public notice. First, NSF Intl. announced that it had certified Kohler, Moen and Price Pfister as faucet companies that meet the new lead content requirement of ≤ 0.25 percent and the requirements of the new section of NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Annex G - Weighted Average Lead Content Evaluation Procedure to a 0.25 Percent Lead Requirement. This section includes the recently enacted legislation in California and Vermont that mandates a maximum weighted average lead content requirement of ≤ 0.25 percent by Jan. 1, 2010. Other states are also considering low lead content legislation. Compliance with NSF/ANSI Standard 61, the American National Standard for Drinking Water Products, is also required.

NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components - Health Effects was updated in December to incorporate requirements for use when the ≤ 0.25 percent lead content requirement must be met, in addition to current chemical extraction requirements of the standard. Compliance is determined by a weighted average calculation involving the maximum percent lead content of material specifications and wetted surface areas. To ensure ongoing compliance with the new lead requirements, NSF will conduct annual, unannounced inspections of the manufacturing facilities for certified products and re-test products on a regular basis.

Separately, the Maryland House of Representatives recently introduced HB 357, Business Occupations and Professions - Plumbers - Lead-Free Materials, which requires that materials used in the installation or repair of plumbing intended to dispense water for human consumption be lead-free.

Lead-free is defined in the bill as containing not more than a weighted average lead content of 0.25 percent for the wetted surfaces of pipe, pipefittings, plumbing fittings or fixtures; 0.2 percent lead for solder and flux; 4 percent lead by dry weight for plumbing fittings and fixtures; and 8 percent lead by dry weight for pipe and pipefittings.

The bill prohibits the sale of pipe and other plumbing supplies if they are not lead-free and are intended for use with water for human consumption. Sale of solder or flux that is not lead-free is permitted if it carries a label indicating that it is not for use with water intended for human consumption.

The Maryland bill is similar to lead-free plumbing legislation enacted last year in California. As of press time, the measure was awaiting action by the Maryland Senate. If enacted, the legislation would be effective Jan. 1, 2011. [MD information source: www.WeAreLeadFree.net]