Federal Law Regarding Lead in Pipes and Water System Components
A federal law, the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act,” amended the Safe Drinking Water Action to redefine “lead-free.” This change concerning the amount of allowable lead in pipes and water system components in contact with potable water was passed by the Congress and signed by the President of the United States in January 2011. The law becomes effective January 4, 2014. The law applies to public water supplies, and to private residential and nonresidential water supplies providing water for human consumption. The law reduces the allowable amount of lead in pipes, fittings, valves, and fixtures from the current level of 8 percent to 0.25 percent. The standard applies with respect to the wetted surface of these components. The amount of lead in solders and flux is not changed, and remains at 0.20 percent.
The law will apply to products installed after January 3, 2014, whether for totally new work or in the repair of an existing water system. Products not meeting the standard cannot be legally installed after January 3, 2014. There are two exemptions to the law: first, the law does not apply to completely nonpotable water supplies, such as irrigation; and second, the law does not apply to some specific components of potable water systems that are not usually used for drinking, such as toilets, shower valves, and similar fixtures.
Manufacturers can sell both “lead-free” and lead-containing materials, although some have indicated that they will stop making materials that do not meet the new standard. Most manufacturers are marking their complying products, “lead free,” “no lead,” or using a different colored label. However, there are no mandatory labeling requirements. Two markings that assure the product meets the standard are NSF/ANSI 372 and NSF/ANSI 61-G. If the product is marked and meets either of these standards, it complies with the law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has posted additional information and answers to Frequently Asked Questions (PDF: 127KB/14 pages).
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