Brass Plumbing Components: New Regulations for Lead


Safe drinking water is one the basic human needs, and one of the basic civil services we expect of our cities, states, reservoir management, etc. One of the biggest long-standing risks to the safety of drinking water in the U.S. is lead (Pb) contamination. Over the last few decades, most public waterways that originally contained Pb piping have undergone modernization and replacement of piping with lead-free or low-lead materials. Unfortunately, older homes are not always required to be up to code unless they are being remodeled, so many such homes still contain pipes and plumbing components with Pb content that is higher than the recommended safe levels. Homes built after 1986 were required to meet strict safety standards in terms of the Pb levels in their plumbing.

The Safe Drinking Water Act—originally made law in 1974—was amended in 1986 to substantially reduce the amount of lead allowed in plumbing components to 8%. The Safe Drinking Water Act was amended again in January of 2011, this time reducing the acceptable level of Pb in brass components that come into contact with drinking water to 0.25%. CONTACT US TO DISCOVER XRF TOOLS TO QUICKLY AND EASILY VERIFY THE % OF LEAD IN BRASS.

Meeting the 0.25% Pb Requirement in Brass Plumbing Components

The new requirements will come into effect in January of 2014, at which time all involved parties must comply with the 0.25% lead standard. All industry parties involved in materials handling and installation of brass plumbing components that come into contact with drinking water will be held responsible for compliance with the standard. One of the foreseeable challenges of compliance with this new Safe Drinking Water Act amendment is a supply chain that will likely maintain two parallel brass component inventories, one that meets the new requirement and one that will continue to contain as much as 8% Pb. Why continue to produce components that do not meet the new requirement? Most other countries will continue to allow brass plumbing components that contain as much as 8% Pb; it is in the best interest of the manufacturers to continue to make such components since brass higher in Pb is easier and less expensive to manufacture.

Because there will likely be a two-track supply chain, materials mix-ups are bound to occur occasionally. To avoid costly errors, manufactures, suppliers, and distributors will need to quickly and accurately verify that the brass components they are manufacturing and installing meet the new SDWA lead limits.

Brass Plumbing Component Analysis with Bruker Handheld XRF Analyzers

SDWA, lead in brass plumbing

Handheld XRF is a fast, easy, nondestructive instrument for the analysis of brass components.  The Bruker line of handheld XRF analyzers (such as the S1 TITAN series) will provide the complete alloy chemistry, including percent by weight of lead and copper in brass, within a matter of just a few seconds. And since the XRF method is completely nondestructive and can be used anywhere, alloying materials and brass components can be checked anywhere, at any step of the manufacturing, installation, or in-service process.

Contact Bruker today to schedule a free XRF demonstration at your worksite.


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