The deadline for manufacturers to comply with the state’s new lead plumbing laws is Jan. 1, 2010, which is just around the corner.



Although the California lead law is commonly referred to as “Assembly Bill (AB) 1953,” there were actually three bills that passed and will go into effect in Jan. 2010. AB 1953 and Senate Bill (SB) 1334 amended the California Health and Safety Code (HSC) Section 116875, and SB 1395 added HSC Section 25214.4.3.

So, what are the requirements of the laws, and how does certification to NSF’s Annex G fit into these requirements? Let’s start with a review of California laws…

California Low-Lead Laws

AB 1953 was the first and main bill enacted. It was signed into law in 2006 and redefines the term "lead free" as it relates to any pipe, pipe or plumbing fitting, or fixture intended to convey or dispense water for drinking or cooking. For these products, "lead free" will now mean not more than a weighted average lead content of 0.25%. The weighted average is determined by multiplying the lead content of each wetted component by the proportion of the total wetted surface area represented by that component and summing up the results. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, no person will be able to use, install, or bring into commerce these products unless they comply with new "lead free" requirements of the law.

SB 1334 and SB 1395 were two additional bills that were enacted together in Fall 2008, two years after AB 1953. California’s SB 1395 requires lead plumbing monitoring and compliance testing be performed by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) as part of the department’s ongoing program to reduce toxic substances from the environment.

The DTSC will annually select no more than 75 drinking water faucets or other drinking water plumbing fittings and fixtures for testing and evaluation. The DTSC will acquire products that are readily accessible to the public at either retail or wholesale sources. The DTSC will be posting a report on their findings on their Web site, as well as submit copy to the California Department of Public Health.

SB 1334 amended HSC 116875 to require products to be certified for compliance with these provisions by an independent, ANSI-accredited third-party certifier, such as NSF International. In addition, the bill requires that certification include testing of materials in accordance with the protocols used by the DTSC.

Development of NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Annex G

Annex G of NSF/ANSI 61 was developed as a means to demonstrate compliance with California’s new “lead free” requirements enacted through AB 1953. Because the new law did not specify a method for compliance, the legislation sponsor submitted a request to the NSF/ANSI Standard 61 Joint Committee that the standard be updated to include a methodology to allow manufacturers the option of being certified to the new lead content requirements.

The Joint Committee asked its existing Lead Task Group to review and develop the criteria, and then received guidance from key regulators, proponents of the California lead bill, and industry representatives, in addition to the NSF Standard 61 Joint Committee, to ensure an open, transparent consensus process. The resulting document - NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Annex G - was voted on by the consensus-based Standard 61 Joint Committee, approved by the NSF Council of Public Health Consultants and published in late 2008.

Annex G Certification

NSF and other ANSI-accredited bodies offer certification to NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Annex G to manufacturers of products that contact drinking water, including faucets, flexible plumbing connectors, valves, meters and many other product types. The inclusion of Annex G is important for manufacturers selling products in California who must comply with the new lead content requirements in addition to the current chemical extraction requirements of NSF/ANSI Standard 61. Certification to this standard enables manufacturers to demonstrate product compliance with the ≤0.25% maximum weighted average lead content requirement. To emphasize the fact that Annex G meets California law, NSF’s online listings include a note that states, "Product also Certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Annex G (weighted average lead content of ≤0.25%) and is in compliance with California's Health & Safety Code Section 116875 (commonly known as AB 1953).”

Like NSF/ANSI Standard 61, product certification to Annex G takes into consideration the worst-case potentials for lead content. For Annex G, this is achieved by incorporating the maximum lead content potential for each component and is determined through the material specifications used. For instance, the lead content specifications for copper alloys like brass are often provided as a range. It is the maximum value of that range that is used in the calculation of weighted average lead content and forms the basis of product compliance.

Also, a manufacturer cannot use plating, coatings or acid wash treatments to make a device comply with Annex G and the California low lead regulations. While NSF Standard 61 allows the use of platings, coatings, or acid wash treatments, these are not taken into consideration when evaluating products to the 0.25% weighted average lead content requirements of Annex G. The weighted average must be based on the lead content of the component, not just the lead content on the surface. This requirement was incorporated into Annex G based on a letter expressing the legislative intent of AB 1953 sent to NSF from the California legislator who authored AB 1953.

California Product Testing/Evaluation

Recently, the California DTSC posted a document on their Web site containing the protocols they will use when evaluating products for compliance with the new law. The document, titled Testing and Evaluation of the Lead Content in Plumbing Products, Materials and Components, addresses the testing and evaluation in HSC Section 25214.4.3 by outlining an approach for testing lead content in drinking water faucets and other drinking water plumbing fittings and fixtures that third-party testing organizations and other stakeholders can use for lead-content analysis.

It also identifies specific analytical methods, such as U.S. EPA SW 846 for lead content analysis, but permits use of equivalent analytical methods provided that adequate performance can be demonstrated. Initial screening of materials through methods such as XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) may also be used under specific conditions, such as to check the lead content where no lead is expected (e.g., certain plastics, elastomers, coatings), or when comparing results to established material specifications, or to prioritize items for further testing. As required by California law, NSF lead content certifications include testing of materials to these procedures through incorporation into our surveillance and monitoring program on certified products.

The DTSC’s Testing and Evaluation document goes on further to state that when coatings are used, the lead content of the coated substrate should be used in the calculation of the weighted average lead content. It also states that for components where the wetted surface areas have been treated with a lead removal technology, the percent lead composition should be based on the bulk material used to manufacture the component prior to application of the surface treatment. These additional requirements are already part of Annex G.

The new law requires independent certification and, at a minimum, testing of materials in accordance with DTSC's test protocols. However, the test protocols do not address the certification process. Certification processes include requirements for initial certification and for continuing that certification. At NSF, some of the requirements include plant audits, disclosure of complete formulation information, initial and monitor testing, and manufacturing with only authorized materials.

The DTSC recently stated on its Web site that it anticipates that the general practice of third-party product certification will not be impacted except that monitoring of representative sample for compliance will include materials testing in accordance with the protocols used by the DTSC. So now that the requirements of the three bills have been laid out, certification for manufacturers with NSF will continue to be business as usual.

For additional information on the California lead issue and Annex G, please visit the NSF Web site dedicated to low-lead plumbing products, www.nsf.org/info/lead. A copy of Annex G as adopted in NSF/ANSI 61 – 2008 is available for download.