Effects of lead reduction
Proposition 65 was the topic for the President of PPI and general manager of engineering for Reliance Worldwide Peter Flynn at the Plumbing Supply Forum 2009, held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
While only in effect in two States of the USA, including its origin State California, the disappearance of lead from plumbing products could have serious ramifications for the industry.
Already some US lobby groups have reached legal settlements in class actions to remove the lead content from certain products. The valve industry has decided to fight the action because Proposition 65 could not be verified through suitable testing methods. Essentially, it is just a warning.
Lead free can be defined as up to 8% under law, however proposed test methods were ruled invalid in March 2004.
Standard AB1953 revised the definition to be less than 2.5% lead free (anything in contact with water).
Yet the proposition prohibits using materials that are not lead free in repairs, exempting the manufacturing, industrial and irrigation industries.
By January 2010 all products will be encompassed by legislation and lawyers and inspectors will be able to take stock from the shelf and conduct tests. Yet lead exists for castability and machinability (lubricant) which creates substantial challenges including increasing costs.
Two alternatives are silicon and bismuth, which have higher copper content. However, there are no Standards as yet.
The reduction or removal of lead is a long way off in Australia, and this government will most likely wait to see how many more US States fall.
If it does come the point in Australia where lead can no longer be used, the industry will face upheaval; as such PPI will keep abreast of regulations.