You may have heard the news last month that an ingredient found in red meat and energy drinks can harden your arteries, causing you to develop heart disease. Carnitine occurs naturally in red meat, and some manufacturers add it (a.k.a. L-carnitine) to energy drinks to boost the metabolism of those who drink them.

I can't imagine how scientists could get the carnitine out of red meat, but the discovery has to make beverage manufacturers search for a new ingredient. The reason I mention this is a comment made to me by one of my BNP Media colleagues whose trade magazine covers the meat industry.

“It’s a good thing the plumbing industry doesn’t face issues like this,” she said.

While I definitely am not comparing the health risks of carnitine in red meat and energy drinks with lead in some plumbing products, her comment did make me think. People are awfully concerned about what they put in their bodies these days, and a large number of them outside the plumbing industry appear to be unaware of what people inside the plumbing industry are doing to reduce the amount of lead in their plumbing products.

Manufacturers, wholesalers and trade associations worry more that you, as plumbing contractors, are unaware that low-lead legislation now in California, Vermont, Maryland and Louisiana is going national on Jan. 4, 2014. On that day, any leaded product sold or installed for potable water applications can’t have a weighted average of more than 0.25% lead.

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act redefines the term “lead-free” in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 down from a maximum 8% on a weighted average basis to the new level. The law applies to pipe, plumbing fittings and fixtures, and solder and flux used in a public water system or facility providing water that people consume. It covers kitchen and bathroom faucets and any other devices intended to convey or dispense water for drinking or cooking.

The law exempts nonpotable water service products such as irrigation and industrial processing equipment, toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers and shower valves. Service saddles and water main gate valves 2 in. or greater are excluded as well.

Questions about the law still exist, even though its effective date is less than eight months away. Who will enforce it, and how, remains open. Even the standards by which products will be tested are being debated. What does appear certain is that the fines for installing and selling leaded products after Jan. 4 will be hefty.

We encourage you to educate yourself and your employees on the law’s requirements. Many wholesalers and manufacturers stand ready to help, and we’ll continue to do our part.

Plumbing & Mechanical has published and posted news articles and interviews with manufacturers who have taken leadership positions on the lead issue. An archived webinar, presented live in March and sponsored by Ultra Pure from Milwaukee/Hammond Valve, is still available here on PM’s site.

You can find more information — and a countdown clock to Jan. 4 — at The website belongs to the Get the Lead Out Plumbing Consortium, which is presenting educational programs online and at industry meetings. Members include the PHCC Educational Foundation, American Supply Association, Plumbing Manufacturers International, Legend Valve, Milwaukee Valve, NIBCO, Reliance Worldwide/Cash Acme and Watts Water Technologies.

Educating yourself will help to keep your company in compliance. It also will help to position you as an expert with your customers.

 The federal law will not require you to remove plumbing products already installed in buildings. Any minimal health risks associated with these products do not justify using scare tactics to compel building owners to replace them. Still, your customers should learn to rely on your expertise when they need to replace them or want new products installed.