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CA Prop 65 Information
For centuries, people have known that lead is bad for you, and that lead poisoning can be fatal. However, it hasn't been until the advent of recent technologies that we've understood exactly how and why lead is bad for the human body. Due to its corrosion-resistance and ease of working with it, lead was used in ancient times for water pipes, cooking pots, eating dishes and utensils, and more. Even with the transition from lead pipes to those made of cast iron, copper, and galvanized steel, many times the brass fittings or solder used to join pipes contained significant amounts of lead.
If you've ever taken a chemisty class, you're probably familiar with the concept that water is a solvent. This means that it will absorb things like minerals, metals, and chemicals that it comes into contact with over a period of time. Water sitting in your pipes will gradually leach lead from the joints or fittings. In addition, as the plumbing system in a building ages, the pipes, fittings, and joints will corrode - again leaching lead into the water supply.
When you drink that water, you're ingesting lead. The human body is amazing at destroying or getting rid of many harmful substances, from certain minerals and indigestable fibers to bacteria and viruses. However, these biological mechanisms only work if the body recognizes the invader. Guess what lead is really good at? Mimicking helpful substances that your body needs, like calcium, zinc, and iron. Thus, lead poisoning isn't so much a case of having too much lead, but of having that lead bind to and interact with the enzymes your body utilizes for proper functioning - blocking those good minerals and metals from attaching to the enzyme and doing what they're supposed to to keep your body healthy.
Thus, no safe level of lead in the body has been identified. Even small amounts of lead can disrupt your immune system, interfere with metabolism and vitamin/mineral absorption, inhibit neurological function, and even damage your DNA. Babies and children are the most at risk for lead poisoning primarily because their growing bodies are so much faster at absorbing and processing any lead they are exposed to. When the lead takes the place of the good nutrients a child's body needs to continue growing, bad things happen. Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, abdominal pain and vomiting, slowed growth and brain development, nervous system damage, hearing problems, anemia, and in rare cases can cause seizures, coma, and even death. Brain/nerve damage or delayed development in children related to lead poisoning is irreversible.
As of August 6, 1998, the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act (the Act) prohibits any person from introducing into commerce, products that are not "lead free" as defined by the Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that for a product to be considered "lead free" under the Act, it must satisfy the performance standard for lead leaching under NSF Standard 61, Section 9 (NSF 61/9). Items covered by NSF 61/9 include lavatory faucets, (excluding metering, self-closing, and electronic faucets), bar and kitchen faucets, valves, supply lines, fittings, and many other products that come into contact with drinking water supplies. The Act applies to residential, commercial and institutional installations, as well as new and retrofit applications.
California Proposition 65, "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986" is the most stringent law (that we know of) of its kind at either the state or federal level. The federal standard for lead in drinking water is 11 ppb (parts per billion) while prop 65 (Calif) mandates a level of .05ppb. The Center for Environmental Health recommends that consumers run water for 10 seconds before filling a glass to remove water with the highest lead levels (from pre "Act" faucets).
Additionally, with the passage of California Assembly Bill 1953, Maryland House Bill 372, and Vermont Assembly Bill VT S.152, "lead free" is defined as to mean not more than a weighted average of 0.25% lead content in pipe and fittings. What this means for you is the lead content in faucet spouts and fittings will not be legally allowed to have more than one-fourth of one percent of lead, so water traveling through compliant faucets will be essentially "lead free". CA AB 1953 defines lead as less than 0.25%. This bill changes the meaning of term "lead free" in the Health and Safety Code from eight percent lead for pipes or pipe fittings, and four percent lead for plumbing fittings and fixtures to a weighted average of not more than 0.25 percent lead content within each component that comes into contact with the wetted surfaces of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures effective July 1, 2010. However, it is important to note that while products meeting the requirements of the law are defined as being "lead free", they may still contain trace amounts of lead.
The new lead free act went into effect nationally in 2014.