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PMI: Don't Fear Faucets

Editor's note: Barbara C. Higgens, executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute, sent the following letter to the editor of The Sacramento Bee in response to the paper's editorial on legislative efforts in California. The legislation known as AB 1953 would drastically reduce lead exposure in faucets. The Aug. 26 editorial, “Get The Lead Out: Faucets shouldn't be source of a poison,” contends that mainstream manufacturers have routinely fought against such improved environmental changes only to see smaller competitors respond with products that meet the new standards. In this case, the editorial says at least 24 companies already have products that would meet the new proposed standards.

Faucet manufacturers are committed to public health and safety. Materials used in faucets are highly regulated nationally through rigorous, ongoing performance testing (NSF 61), which evaluates the quality of the water coming out of the faucet and subsequently into consumers. Lead is only one of a number of elements measured by this testing. AB 1953 prescribes an arbitrary and convoluted formula for constructing faucets, which, by ignoring performance criteria, actually puts consumers at risk.

Further, the bill does not make the same material content requirement for all components in the water system. A recent amendment now exempts a group of products, which exhibit higher lead content. Coincidentally, these exempted products are manufactured by the bill's supporters. This amendment seems contradictory to the supposed intent of AB 1953, and one would question the rationale.

The bill's author muddies the issue by implying that all components of a water system can be manufactured in the same way. While some specialized materials are ideal for use in simple components (water meters and, ironically, those products now exempted in the bill), these alloys are not suitable for use in complicated mechanical devices such as faucets.

In addition to there being no public health issue or rationale for this uneven-handed law, contrary to assurances by the bill's author, no faucets we are aware of meet the arbitrary specifications of AB 1953. Despite our requests, the author declines to provide specific names of the recently alleged compliant faucet companies. The reference is likely to the members of a coalition that does not represent the faucet manufacturing industry. A review of the coalition's membership roster and products produced by their members is revealing.

The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute does represent faucet manufacturers, none of which are able to comply with the arbitrary and unnecessary specifications of AB 1953. Letters from company presidents to that effect are on file with the California legislature and are available from PMI.

In an era of real terrorism, it is a shame that some feel compelled to frighten the public needlessly and to create unnecessary laws based on confusion and deception. AB 1953 is characterized by a number of myths - 14 to be exact - that have been widely distributed and are available to the public.

In the end, we trust that science, truth and common sense will prevail, and the governor will use his power and good judgment to veto this bill.
Barbara C. Higgens
Plumbing Manufacturers Institute
Schaumburg, Ill.