In a continuing effort to dispel mounting questions and possible misinterpretations of the requirements of federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) amendments that take effect Aug. 6, the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute and the American Supply Association issued a joint statement clarifying these requirements.

The statement notes the confusion between lead-free in terms of content as opposed to the amount of lead leached into the water. Since June 19, 1986, flux and solder, pipe and pipe fittings — which includes virtually every part of and product in a water distribution system — have been required to be “lead free” as defined by the SDWA. For flux and solder, the “lead free” standard means 0.2 percent lead content. For pipe and pipe fittings, “lead free” means the products can contain no more than 8 percent lead.

In other words, for the past 12 years, it’s been illegal for a manufacturer to make and a contractor to install a product that contains more than these amounts of lead.

After Aug. 6, however, products covered by the ANSI/NSF Standard 61, Section 9 must also meet stated requirements for lead leaching. The following products are covered:

  • Single handle and two-handle lavatory faucets;
  • Two-hole and single-hold bar faucets;
  • Single handle and two-handle kitchen faucets;
  • Hot and cold water dispensers;
  • Drinking fountains, drinking fountain bubblers and water coolers;
  • Glass fillers;
  • Residential refrigerator ice-makers; and
  • Supply stops and endpoint control valves.

A number of products, however, are specifically excluded from the scope of Standard 61, Section 9 since they are not intended to convey water for human consumption:

  • Bath and shower valves, showerheads of all types and Roman tub valves;
  • All drains;
  • Backflow prevention devices; and
  • All endpoint devices that are not specifically intended to dispense water for human consumption, including utility, laundry, laboratory, bidet and shampoo fittings; faucets with a hose thread spout end with a quick disconnect end; faucets that are self-closing, metering or electronically activated; and non-lavatory hand wash stations.

Much of the recent controversy of the SDWA amendments has to do with the “introduce into commerce” clause of the following provision:

“... it shall be unlawful ... for any person to introduce into commerce any pipe, or any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture that is not lead free ...”

With Congress soon to recess for the summer, any type of legislative relief that PMI officials had earlier hoped for seems a very distant possibility. After Aug. 6, specific products covered by Standard 61, Section 9, will have to meet the lead leaching portion of that standard.

The sale and installation of these products will be governed by state and local plumbing codes.

Federal law does not specify requirements for listing, labeling, marking or third-party certification for identifying that a product meets Standard 61, Section 9. It is possible that state and local plumbing codes do have specific requirements to this regard.