New Califorinia Lead Code 'Flawed,' PMI Contends

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Schaumburg, IL — The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute, the Schaumburg, IL-based trade association whose member companies produce the majority of the nation’s plumbing products, has strongly criticized newly approved legislation aimed at reducing lead exposure in California’s drinking water.

The legislation, signed into law about a month ago by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, reduces the allowable lead content in pipes and other plumbing parts that carry water intended for human consumption. Lead consumption has been linked to a variety of developmental disorders in young children.

Under the terms of the legislation, AB 1953, the former limit of up to 8% lead in pipes and plumbing fixtures will be reduced to 0.25%.
The PMI, which fought the new code for months, said it is “disappointed” with the passage of the legislation, arguing that there is no need for the new regulation “since faucets are already highly regulated and are safe for consumers.

“While the measure’s intent is to make plumbing products safer, it mandates an arbitrary, redundant and flawed formula to evaluate products that already undergo proven, rigorous testing under a federally approved certification system,” the PMI stated.

“Rather than being grounded in sound science, the bill is based upon a number misconceptions and discounts the value and use of the performance-based NSF 61 standard in measuring product safety.”

According to the PMI, the new California code, set to go into effect in 2010, “employs an arbitrary and flawed formula” to determine the amount of lead content in faucets.

The association contended, furthermore, that despite claims to the contrary, “no faucets currently manufactured can comply with the requirements” of the legislation.

“While there are lower-lead alloys on the market today, bismuth as an example, these materials are effectively used only in simple-to-manufacture products such as water meters. There is no replacement alloy appropriate for the critical, mechanical demands of a faucet,” said the PMI, whose members include manufacturers of a wide range of plumbing industry products, including potable water supply system components, fixture fittings, waste fixture fittings, fixtures, flushing devices and sanitary drainage system components.

The trade association also said that the new California code “contains a massive loophole – specifically, a provision that exempts products in the water system which not only contain the highest levels of lead, but are also the least regulated under the current national testing and certification framework.

“This leaves many questions open with respect to the aim of the bill as well as the public’s interest, and we look forward to future and well-informed debate on this issue,” said PMI Executive Director Barbara Higgens.

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