Which faucets and fixtures have the lowest lead levels? California asks plumbing manufacturers.

Tom Neltner, J.D. is the Chemicals Policy Director and Lindsay McCormick is a Program Manager.

Until California Water Board publishes its lists of fixtures that leach minimal lead, we recommend that schools and child care facilities routinely flush newly installed drinking water fixtures for several weeks and retest before allowing children to consume the water.

In November, the California Water Board took an important step that should benefit anyone seeking to buy a new faucet, drinking water fountain or other fixture – especially schools and child care facilities. The Board sent letters to more than 300 plumbing manufacturers and certifiers asking them to voluntarily provide information on fixtures that leach minimal lead. Specifically, it seeks to identify fixtures that meet lead leaching limits that are five times more protective than the current limits in the NSF/ANSI 61 standard.

The Board plans to make the compiled responses publicly available and encourage the 14,000 licensed child care centers in the state to buy new fixtures from those on the list when water testing indicates the fixture should be replaced. We anticipate that the Board will utilize the list to identify fixtures to purchase through a $5 million grant program the California State General Legislature established when it enacted AB-2370 last year. The funds are designed to help licensed child care facilities meet the state’s new mandated water testing and remediation program.

Lead from new faucets?

Many people are still surprised to learn that new brass or bronze water fixtures contain intentionally-added lead. A decade ago, California tightened the standards on how much lead may be added from 8% to 0.25%. Since 2014, federal law mandates that all fixtures meet those California standards, and they have been incorporated in the NSF/ANSI 61 consensus standard. We discussed that standard and the lead leaching test in a November 2018 blog, highlighting how schools and child care facilities following EPA’s guidance for sampling could find levels well over state or local action levels from new replacement fixtures.

Stalled action on a stronger standard

California Water Board’s action was made all the more important when the NSF committee responsible for revising the NSF/ANSI standard narrowly rejected a proposal to provide an optional more stringent certification for lead leaching to the standard. In a recent blog, we reported that the committee had accepted the proposal on a straw ballot and provided a link to an October 23 memo from the committee describing the vote and responding to comments by those opposed. However, when a formal ballot was taken in November, objections from plumbing manufacturers and others appear to have convinced some committee members to switch their vote – ultimately leading to the proposal’s rejection.

Consumers nationally will benefit

We applaud the California Water Board for its leadership both in sending the letters and committing to compiling the responses into a list that people across the country can use to identify faucets, drinking water fountains, and other fixtures that meet more protective limits for lead. With a study of more than 500 NSF/ANSI 61 certified faucet models showing that 73% can meet the more protective limits, it is time that the public be given the information they need to be able to make a choice for lower lead in their drinking water.

We hope that the plumbing manufacturers provide the Board with the requested information by the January 31, 2020 deadline. In the meantime, we recommend that consumers, in particular schools and child care facilities, flush newly installed drinking water fixtures for several weeks and retest before allowing children to consume the water.

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