Optional, more stringent standard for plumbing devices in review

Changes to the NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 standard under consideration could introduce a new, optional, lower-lead certification for endpoint plumbing devices such as faucets and drinking fountains used in schools and day care centers. Currently, these devices must have a Q test statistic of no more than 5 micrograms of lead per liter (5 parts per billion, or ppb), determined by a 19-day exposure test. Revisions to the standard could introduce an optional “annex” standard of 1 ppb.

In January 2016, the Flint, Mich. water crisis refocused attention on the issue of lead in drinking water and its harmful effects, particularly on children. In June 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for a stricter standard of 1 ppb for faucets and drinking fountains primarily used by children. However, according to Matt Sigler, technical director, Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), lead in drinking water primarily stems from outdated infrastructure, not faucets. “Plumbing manufacturers support efforts to reduce lead in drinking water, but the source of this lead isn’t faucets, it’s thousands of miles of old lead service lines and old premise plumbing piping. Faucets aren’t filters and can’t remove these decades old contaminants.”

The NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 Joint Committee is considering an “annex” to the current standard that would provide for optional, more stringent requirements for faucets and drinking fountains designed for sensitive populations. These include a lower Q test statistic of 1 ppb and an additional requirement of 3 ppb per liter on Day Three of a 19-day test. According to NSF, 72 percent of faucets tested at the organization would qualify for the optional certification.

“The precedent is for an annex to eventually become a requirement,” Matt said. “If even the Joint Committee introduces stricter standards, PMI would prefer they be included in the actual standard with a four- to five-year phase-in period. This gives manufacturers, as well as businesses and organizations that use these products, time to meet a new standard.”

In July, NSF issued an electronic straw ballot to determine if the optional annex should be submitted to the Joint Committee as a formal ballot. The tally for the straw ballot was 15 in favor, 10 opposed and 4 abstentions, which means NSF will submit the annex as a formal ballot to the Joint Committee. NSF is now waiting on the formal ballot period to begin. Any negative votes must be adjudicated through the NSF process, which can take anywhere from several weeks to several months.