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Study shows brass devices in plumbing systems can create serious lead-in-water problems
Date:11/11/2010

eventually was traced to a source in the building's piping system upstream of the water fountains. The cause was a particular type of ball valve and the problem disappeared when the valves were removed. The valves were later found to have as much as 18 percent lead by weight on the inner surfaces contacting the drinking water. Later testing proved the valves would leach lead at levels high above the EPA standard for months.

The valves were considered legal, because their average overall lead content was just under the 8 percent limit allowed by law, and were listed as having passed the lead leaching standards of National Sanitation Foundation International, the plumbing device industry's national standard-setting body. While there have been other verified cases of brass devices such as faucets and water fountains at the end of plumbing lines leaching high lead to water, this situation is the first time that a device upstream in a plumbing line has been proven to leach dangerous levels of lead to drinking water that reached the tap.

It verified earlier research by Edwards, which expressed concern about relatively lax standards testing used to certify brass devices for use in plumbing systems as safe. In response to that work, the National Sanitation Foundation implemented more rigorous criteria, which will come into effect in 2012. However, these tougher standards reflect the California standards, and the Chapel Hill-Virginia Tech research team's experience indicates that they probably are still too lax, the authors said.

Edwards, named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007, said the case highlighted concerns about high lead content in certain brass plumbing devices, and the need for a method of preventing the installation of defective products in new construction.

"The levels of lead detected at UNC exceeded those known to cause elevated blood lead in children, as established by the Centers for Disease Control, and even levels causing ac
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Contact: Steven Mackay
smackay@vt.edu
540-231-4787
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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