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Get the Lead Out

Unsurprisingly, another year has passed and we are on the brink of 2014. Hopefully the new year will be filled with new adventures, happy times and will create some wonderful memories for you and your family. Unfortunately, it will also be filled with a new hidden tax that will be passed on to you, the consumer, by way of more expensive plumbing supplies and fixtures. In the government's never ending quest to protect us all from ever dying, we will be faced with yet another regulation. This time the enemy is lead. This is by no means intended to be a political post, or even a medical one, as I am ill suited to properly explain either. What I am intending to do, is simply pass along this new regulation that we as plumbers will be forced to follow by law (and maybe point out some of the silly aspects of it). While I am obviously not opposed to making things safer, I am opposed to laws that have many foolish facets and do not seem to be properly thought out.

Beginning January 4 2014, any product that comes in contact with the potable (drinking) water system must not have a lead content exceeding .25%. All plumbing materials and fixtures must be NSF 372 certified in order to be code compliant for potable water systems. This is mainly going to effect brass. The lead in brass will now need to be substituted with a different allow, and all of these new alloys will be more expensive than the lead. This means the cost of anything plumbing related that contained brass will be going up. In most cases the cost increase will be anywhere from 15-30%. Some faucet manufacturers have simply decided to abandon almost all brass in favor of plastic. This is the reason most new faucets appear to be very cheap and flimsy, because they are! Some manufacturers have opted to retool their factories and stick with brass, but rest assured, that cost will be passed on.

While most of this appears to make sense, it is a blanket law covering all plumbing materials. Exceptions have not been made for specific items that would not ever leach lead into waters that a person would drink. A few of these items that will be covered by the law are irrigation backwater valves which serve only your sprinklers. A hot water vacuum breaker, or temperature and pressure relief valve. The last time I checked, most people did not drink hot water, and even if they did, these two items barely have any surface area that even make contact with the potable water system.

The law may get even more silly when the inspector mandates that the new valves on your bathroom remodel be NSF 372 certified, but he fails to mention that your water MAIN coming into your house is a lead pipe! Of course, this only applies if you live in an old home, most likely downtown.

Merry Christmas everyone! Your new year MAY be blessed with a .000025% less likely chance that you will develop lead poisoning, while your plumbing WILL be going up by about 25%.

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About the Author

Matthew Sherman, All Area Plumbing LLC
1915 Pinegrove Dr.
Jenison, MI 49428

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