Q. "How does lead get into drinking water right now?"
A. Primarily, trace amounts of lead get into drinking water due to aging infrastructures, such as old pipes and plumbing systems parts. The Plumbing Manufacturer's Institute (PMI) states that over the past decade, lead levels in plumbing fixture fittings have been reduced to insignificant levels due to improvements in modern manufacturing processes.
Q. "How does lead content in brass faucets affect me?"
A. Water is a solvent, probably the best known solvent on earth. As such, water will absorb metals, minerals, and chemicals that it comes in contact with over a period of time. A faucet that has brass waterways can be susceptible to this process. Water sitting in your faucet can leach the lead out of the brass and enter your water system.
Q. "What does it mean to have ANSI Certification for lead free plumbing products?"
A. Laws requiring plumbing products that come in to contact with drinking water to be essentially lead-free (0.25% weighted average) were passed in the United States Congress, U.S. Senate Bill No. S.3874, amending Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act with new public law (P.L.111-380). In January 2014, in order for companies to ship and sell plumbing products used for use in potable water applications they must be ANSI certified lead free.
Q. "What is CA AB 1953, LA Act No.362, MD HB 372, and VT S.152 and how is this different from previous low-lead legislation?"
A. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of lead in drinking water under guidelines established in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (passed in 1974; amended in 1988 and 1996). This Act originally defined "lead-free" as not more than 8% lead in pipes and fixture fittings. New legislation adopted in CA (AB 1953) VT (S.152) LA (Act 362) and MD (HB 372) in 2010 prompted new lead free law revisions to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (public law P.L. 111-380) in January 2014 revised the Safe Drinking Water Act definition of lead free to mean 0.25% or less (weighted average) in pipes and fixture fittings used for potable water.
Q. "What states are affected by the new lower lead laws?"
A. In January 2014, the "Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act" (public law P.L. 111-380) a revision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, became law nationwide. In addition to the 50 U.S. states, the federal Lead Free law also applies to Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
Q. "How are these laws enforced, and who enforces them?"
A. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with implementing this law, but primary responsibility for enforcing the law is left to the states. Responsibility is mostly passed to cities, towns and municipal utilities who use plumbing and health codes to aid enforcement. In addition to the lead laws, California also requires product certification by an independent third party, and certifying to NSF 61 standards is becoming more common.
Q. "How is something determined to be Lead Free?"
A. In 2014, Lead Free legislation reduces the permissible levels of lead in the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures to a weighted average of not more than 0.25%. Products that meet this standard are referred to in the law as "Lead Free." Per the language of U.S. Senate Bill No. S.3874, the weighted average lead content of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting, or fixture is calculated as follows:
For each wetted component, the percentage of lead in the component is multiplied by the ratio of the wetted surface area of that component to the total wetted surface area of the entire product; this results in a "weighted percentage" of lead of the component.
The weighted percentage of lead (of each wetted component) is then added together, and the sum of these weighted percentages equals the weighted average lead content of the product.
The lead content of the material used to produce wetted components determines compliance as "not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.
Q. "How can I tell if a product meets the requirements of the lead free laws?"
A. Many manufacturers have chosen to mark their products or the packaging with an identifying mark, indicating that the product is compliant with the law. However, some items that have always been compliant with the 2014 lead free legislation may have no identifying mark, even though they are compliant. If a question arises regarding the lead content of a product, we recommend consulting with the manufacturer.
Q. "Are all plumbing components included in the new laws?"
A. Pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings or fixtures that are used exclusively for non-potable services such as manufacturing, industrial processing, irrigation, outdoor watering, or any other uses where water is not anticipated to be used for human consumption are not included in the law. Toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles, or water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or larger are excluded from this legislation.
Q. "Who is affected by the new laws?"
A. The law will affect everyone. It makes it illegal to sell or install pipes, fittings and fixtures in applications providing water for human consumption that do not comply with the new standard. For suppliers and plumbers, that means whether you sell or install these products, you will need to supply products compliant with the new law. For individuals it will mean that you cannot use non-Lead Free items in installations that will be used for human consumption.