When California lawmakers several years ago proposed that plumbing manufacturers reduce the amount of lead in their products, I believed the legislation was based more on politics than science. Still, I had no doubt that the bill would be signed into law. People are very concerned about what they put in their bodies.

Manufacturers and wholesalers want to make sure that engineers who specify their plumbing products are aware that low-lead legislation now in California, Vermont, Maryland and Louisiana is going national on Jan. 4, 2014. From that day forward, any leaded product sold or installed for potable water applications can’t have a weighted average of more than 0.25% lead.

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act redefines the term “lead-free” in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 down from a maximum 8% on a weighted average basis to the new level. The law applies to pipe, pipe and plumbing fittings and fixtures, and solder and flux used in a public water system or facility providing water that people consume. It covers kitchen and bathroom faucets and any other devices intended to convey or dispense water for drinking or cooking.

The law exempts nonpotable water service products such as irrigation and industrial processing equipment, toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers and shower valves. Service saddles and water main gate valves 2 in. or greater are excluded as well.

Questions about the law still exist, even though its effective date is less than eight months away. Who will enforce it, and how, remains open. Even the standards by which products will be tested are being debated. What does appear certain is that the fines for specifying, selling and installing leaded products after Jan. 4 will be hefty.

We encourage you to educate yourself and members of your firm on the law’s requirements. Many manufacturers, wholesalers and professional organizations stand ready to help, and we’ll do our part.

In pme, we’ll continue to publish and post news articles along with interviews and guest editorials from manufacturers who have taken leadership positions on the lead issue. In March, we presented a webinar sponsored by Ultra Pure from Milwaukee/Hammond Valve. We’ve archived it in our Webinars section where it still can be viewed for free. All you have to do is click on the Webinars button on our homepage and then register for it.

Go to www.gettheleadoutplumbing.com to find more information — and a countdown clock to Jan. 4. The website belongs to the Get the Lead Out Plumbing Consortium, which is presenting educational programs online and at industry meetings. Members include the PHCC Educational Foundation, American Supply Association, Plumbing Manufacturers International, Legend Valve, Milwaukee Valve, NIBCO, Reliance Worldwide/Cash Acme and Watts Water Technologies. In January, ASPE produced a webinar for its members on low-lead plumbing products, which was presented by NIBCO.

Educating yourself will help to keep your firm in compliance with the new legislation. It also will help to position you as an expert with your clients.

 The federal law will not require owners to remove plumbing products already installed in their buildings. Still, building owners should learn to rely on your expertise when they need you to specify and design new plumbing systems.