School Environmental Health Newsletter - Fall 2013
Lead Free Plumbing - Are You Ready?
On January 4, 2014, the Federal Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act will go into effect, requiring drinking water system components sold or installed, which include plumbing in facilities, to meet a weighted average of not more than 0.25 percent lead.
The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act amends the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Section 1417, in which Section 1417 (a)(1) states that "no person may use any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, in the installation or repair of any public water system or any plumbing in a residential or nonresidential facility providing water for human consumption that is not lead free". In addition, Section 1417 (d) defines "lead free" to mean that solders and flux may not contain more than 0.2 percent lead; and pipes, pipe fittings, and components may not contain more than 8.0 percent lead. The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water revises the “lead-free” definition in Section 14179(d) from a weighted lead content of 8 percent or less to a weighted average of less than or equal to 0.25 percent for surfaces in contact with potable water; it doesn’t change the definition of “lead-free” for solder or flux. It also establishes a formula to calculate the weighted average lead content.
All water systems that provide water for human consumption must use materials, devices, and components that meet the new “lead-free” requirement. The Minnesota plumbing code Section 4715.0500, relating to water supply systems, is currently under revision to conform to the new lead-free definition.
Third-party certification of these products to meet the new lead-free requirements, such as NSF/ANSI 61 Annex G and/or NSF/ANSI 372, will be required for installing or repairing any water system providing water for human consumption, including potable water systems at schools and child care facilities.
Starting in January 2014, only products complying with the new lead-free requirements shall be used. Products bearing a standardized/certified mark such as NSF-61-G, NSF pw-G, NSF-372, NSF ≤0.25% Lead, and NSF≤ 0.25% Pb are third party certified for lead free compliance.
More information on Low Lead Water Products can be found at:
- NSF Lead Content Compliance Plumbing Fixtures and Fittings
- EPA How to Identify Lead-Free Certification Marks for Drinking Water System & Plumbing Materials
If you have any additional questions or comments to share, please contact your local environmental health facilities manager or health and safety representative.
The Minnesota Department of Health, Drinking Water Protection Section is currently revising the Reducing Lead in Drinking Water for Minnesota’s Schools manual. The updated guidance document will assist schools and child care facilities with testing for lead in the drinking water. For additional information you may contact Leslie Winter at 651-201-4705.
Fall is a Good Time to Prepare for Radon Testing
The EPA, MDH and other national and international scientific organizations have concluded that radon is a human carcinogen and a significant environmental health hazard. Early concern about indoor radon was focused primarily on the hazard posed in the home. The EPA, MDH and other researchers have found that radon can be present at elevated levels in other buildings, including schools.
Elevated levels of radon may be found throughout the state of Minnesota. Testing is the only way to determine whether or not the radon concentration in a building is elevated. Because radon levels have been found to vary significantly from room to room, all frequently-occupied rooms in contact with the ground should be tested. In addition, occupied rooms immediately above unoccupied spaces that are in contact with the ground, such as crawl spaces and tunnels, should be tested. Testing during the colder months (November 1 through March 31) is recommended.
Initial testing should be conducted using either a certified long-term or short-term test; each method has its advantages. Short term kits can be purchased for $5-$10 each while long term kits can be purchased for $15-$25 each. In rooms with radon concentrations greater than or equal to 4.0 pCi/L, follow-up testing should be done. Follow-up testing with a continuous radon monitor is recommended, to determine whether levels are elevated during occupied times.
Building staff should take action to reduce the level of radon when levels are greater than or equal to 4.0 pCi/L during occupied hours. Radon can be reduced either by pressurizing and increasing ventilation in the building or venting radon from beneath the building’s slab.
After radon mitigation efforts are completed, testing should be done to verify the reduction of radon. Re-testing should be considered when major changes to the foundation or ventilation have occurred that may affect the entry of air through the building foundation. In addition, buildings should be tested periodically, such as every 5 years, unless reasonable justification can be provided that it is highly unlikely that radon concentrations have changed. Results must be reported to MDH and at a school board meeting.
All schools should test for radon. Public schools that use health and safety revenue to test for radon must follow the ‘Radon Testing Plan’, posted on the MDH website Radon in Schools: Radon Testing Plan, report results to MDH and report results at a school board meeting. In addition, MDH has a best practices guidance written to assist Minnesota school officials with radon testing.
Any questions about radon testing or mitigation can be directed to the MDH Indoor Air Unit. MDH can assist schools in various ways, including finding test kit vendors, providing local zip code level data, interpreting test results, lending a continuous radon monitor, and advising on radon mitigation.