With the concern over the past few decades about the content of lead in household materials and how it can leach into our drinking water, the passage of laws that limit the amount of lead in potable water pipes, fittings and fixtures have become common. Though this is a great general change in policy, the devil is in the details - specifically, the term "lead-free". Though many consumers expect that to mean that the material used to create the piece contains no lead, this isn't always the case. In this post, we'll take a look at current lead-free requirements as compared to 100% lead-free components.
Lead-Free by Legal Definition
Though you might think lead-free should contain no lead, there are a few reasons why a small amount of lead is included in brass. Much like in car engines when leaded gasoline was in regular use, lead acts as a lubricant. In the case of brass water components, the lead acts as a lubricant as the brass is machined, as well as filling in small cavities or imperfections in the brass during the molding process. For that reason, when lead-free standards were developed, industry pushed for exemption of components that do not come into contact with potable water and the lead-free definition actually contains a maximum amount of lead. Started with the Safe Drinking Water Act's 8% maximum, the standard has gone through several changes, including the 1996 amendment to meet particular lead leaching maximums and the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act's 0.25% maximum total weight of lead in the component. With the drastic change of 7.75% reduced allowable lead content, it's quite possible that continued lowering of the maximum lead amount in a "lead-free" component may continue to lower until components are 100% lead free.
100% Lead-Free Components
One way to avoid being out of step with the changing standard of what "lead-free" actually means is by using 100% lead-free components in the first place. Red Hed Manufacturing is currently the only manufacturer making 100% lead-free brass components for waterworks customers. We use a proprietary blend with our brass that includes bismuth which reduces its conductance and galvanic corrosion while providing superior machining ability while remaining well within any potential safety maximums for other metals. We not only stay in compliance with the standard, we helped pass it. We think that completely lead-free potable water should be the standard, not a maximum allowable amount of lead. Because we use higher-quality metals and create a heavier component, you'll get a 30-35% longer service life at only a 10% higher cost.
As society continues to demand truly lead-free composition in water-bearing pipes, fittings and fixtures, our industry will see continued reduction in allowable lead in lead-free fittings. By investing a little more today to incorporate 100% lead-free components into your system, you won't have to worry about making future upgrades when regulations change to demand a lower lead content in components that met previous definitions of "lead-free". At Red Hed Manufacturing, we've got an eye on your future and have the 100% lead-free components you need for your water supply system. Contact us today for more details on how we can help you get and keep your system up to the most stringent specifications.