The New Low-Lead Law

September 08, 2009

Industry Insight: Pete Greiner

With the compliance deadline approaching for California’s AB 1953, Stephanie Harris, managing editor of Water Quality Products, recently spoke with NSF’s technical manager of water distribution systems certification program, Pete Greiner, to gain insight on the new law and Annex G to NSF/ANSI Standard 61.

Signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Sept. 30, 2006, Assembly Bill (AB) 1953 will go into effect in California on Jan. 1, 2010. This will require the amount of lead in plumbing fixtures not exceed 0.25%. To help manufacturers and water treatment professionals abide by the new law, Annex G has been established to NSF/ANSI Standard 61 to provide a means of compliance with the law.

Stephanie Harris: Please provide an overview of California’s new AB 1953 legislation.

Pete Greiner: AB 1953 redefines the term “lead free” in the state of California as it relates to any pipe, plumbing and pipe fitting or fixture intended to convey or dispense water for drinking or cooking. For these products, lead free means not more than a weighted average lead content of 0.25%.

The weighted average is determined by multiplying the lead content of each wetted component times the proportion of the total wetted surface area represented by that component and summing up the results.

Effective Jan. 1, 2010, no person will be able to use, install or bring into commerce these products unless they comply with the new lead-free requirements of the law.

Harris: What are the benefits of reducing lead in plumbing fixtures?

Greiner: The bill is looking to make products safer by reducing their overall lead content. By reducing the level of lead in plumbing fixtures, this will reduce the potential for lead to leach from them to drinking water.

Harris: Even though AB 1953 is only in effect in California, how will this affect the plumbing and water treatment industries nationwide?

Greiner: The requirements of AB 1953 affect not only manufacturers within California but all who sell products in that state. Given the size of that market, the law will affect manufacturers from around the world. In addition to materially affecting these manufacturers, it will probably result in many of the same lead-free products to be available nationally.

Harris: Please explain Annex G of NSF/ANSI Standard 61 and how this will help manufacturers address AB 1953?

Greiner: Adopted in late 2008, Annex G was developed to establish an American National Standard providing a means to determine compliance with the California law, as well as a standard for other states to reference if they develop similar regulations.

Annex G was developed through a consensus process that included participation by the sponsor of the AB 1953 legislation, regulators, manufacturers, users and certification organizations. Input was also received by the California assemblyperson that introduced the bill, providing additional assurance that the requirements of the annex are consistent with the legislated intent.

An additional benefit of Annex G is that it also requires a product to meet the stringent leachate testing requirements of NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components—Health Effects. Testing performed under that standard assures that all contaminants, including lead or other potentially harmful chemicals, do not leach from products into water at levels exceeding drinking water criteria.

Annex G also enables consumers and plumbing and water treatment professionals to easily recognize which products abide by the AB 1953 lead requirements. With the Jan. 1, 2010, deadline quickly approaching, many manufacturers are preparing to meet the requirements of the law. There are a number of certified products available today.

Harris: Are any other states enforcing similar legislation at this time?

Greiner: The only other state that I am aware of with a similar law is Vermont.

For more information, contact Pete Greiner at 734.769.5517 or by e-mail at greinerp@nsf.org.

Stephanie Harris is managing editor Water Quality Products. Harris can be reached at 847.391.1007 or by e-mail at sharris@sgcmail.com.

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