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In recent months, you may have heard about California regulations related to low-lead requirements that will be taking effect soon. Terms such as AB 1953, SB 1395 and SB 1334 are being tossed around in conversations and people are calling everyone they can think of to find out if their products are required to comply with the new laws or whether their products require third-party certification to verify low-lead compliance in accordance with the law.
The logistics of the new requirements are falling into place and people are starting to understand the regulations, but questions continue to linger. Hopefully, this article will help answer your questions and provide enough information that you are able to make an educated decision concerning your specific needs regarding the law.
In 2006, California passed a bill to revise Section 116875 of the Health and Safety Code, requiring products that convey or dispense water for human consumption to be lead-free as defined by the new bill. This law, AB 1953, will take effect Jan. 1, 2010, and requires companies to document that their products are lead free according to the new definition.
An additional bill that has passed, SB 1334, goes further in its requirement by mandating companies that produce all pipe, pipe or plumbing fittings or fixtures, solder or flux to be certified as lead-free by an independent third party accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Lastly, SB 1395 requires the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to develop a protocol for random selection and testing of not more than 75 faucets, fittings and fixtures for compliance to AB 1953. The results are also required to be published for public review.
Prior to AB 1953, lead free was defined as not more than 0.2% lead for solder and flux, 8% lead in pipes and fittings and not more than 4% by dry weight in plumbing fittings and fixtures. This law, commencing on Jan. 1, 2010, revises the term “lead free” for products conveying or dispensing water for human consumption to not more than 0.2% lead for solder and flux, as well as not more than a weighted average of 0.25% for the wetted surfaces of products that convey or dispense water for human consumption. Prior to SB 1334 and SB 1395, testing and third-party certification were not required to verify the compliance to the lead-free definition.
At this point, it is clear which products are absolutely exempt from the law: service saddles; backflow preventers for nonpotable services such as irrigation and industrial; and water distribution main gate valves that are 2 in. in diameter and above. It is not quite as clear, however, which other products, if any, can be excluded because they are not intended for use to convey or dispense water for human consumption. The end-user, however, may apply the product for drinking or cooking water regardless of the intended use.
If you can unequivocally show that the product cannot be used for drinking water purposes, then it is assumed that you would not need to comply. But if the product falls within the gray area where it could be used for drinking water applications, your best option would be to consult a lawyer regarding the proper way to move forward with compliance for your type of product.
Once you have determined that your product is required to be compliant with the new law, the next step is to determine whether your product requires a third-party certification or not. SB 1334 requires all pipe, pipe or plumbing fittings or fixtures, solder or flux to be certified as compliant to the new lead-free definition in AB 1953.
It is suggested that your lawyers review the wording of the law to determine if they interpret the scope of mandatory certification to only include those products listed to be compliant or if all products meant to convey or dispense water as described in AB 1953 are required to be compliant.
This point, unfortunately, has not been fully clarified and it will be left up to individual companies to make a decision regarding certification versus compliance. If it is determined that you do not need to undergo full third-party certification, then compliance can be as simple as gathering the necessary information such as test data or calculations to verify lead content.
If it is determined that a product is required to obtain third-party certification for compliance, then you will want to research the ANSI-accredited certification bodies to find the one that will best address your timeline, budget and customer service needs.
There currently is a big divide between certifiers regarding testing that is required in addition to the compliance to AB 1953. Some certifiers have chosen to conduct the items required by the law to show compliance. This includes conducting calculations to show the percent of lead that meets the lead-free definition and the testing that is prescribed by the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Other testing can be conducted, as well, but it is mandatory to be conducted to meet the requirements of this law.
On the other hand, some certifiers are requiring additional testing such as NSF/ANSI Standard 61 or other materials safety testing to be mandatory in addition to the AB 1953 compliance, which may not be required for your product for sale in California. When screening certification bodies, you should review the laws that affect your product(s) and ensure that you will not be asked to pay for testing that is not required by law.