Lead is a common and hazardous contaminant that can be found in the plumbing systems of the nation’s aging infrastructure, including schools and daycare centers. Global public health and safety organization NSF International offers resources to help facility managers find drinking water treatment products, including plumbing supplies, which have been independently tested and certified to meet the requirements of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Under the SDWA, products that contact drinking water must contain less than a 0.25 percent weighted average lead content.
When assessing a school district’s plumbing systems and components, school facility managers and administrators should be aware of the three main sources of lead contamination in plumbing systems:
- Lead service lines connecting the building plumbing systems to the public water distribution system, typically in buildings constructed prior to 1950
- Lead solder used in copper piping systems installed prior to 1986
- Lead-containing brass or galvanized pipe and fittings that are not certified to the NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects standard, which includes many products manufactured prior to the mid-1990s
NSF International advises school facility managers and administrators to look for plumbing systems and parts that are certified to the SDWA requirements. Products certified to the NSF/ANSI drinking water standards (NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects, and NSF/ANSI 372: Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content) have been independently certified to meet federal lead regulations.
NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects establishes the minimum requirements for the control of potential adverse human health effects from products that come in contact with drinking water.
NSF/ANSI 372: Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content sets the methodology for product compliance with a maximum weighted average lead content requirement of 0.25 percent as set by the SDWA in January 2014.
NSF International provides lists of NSF Certified lead free products including faucets, drinking fountains and icemakers on its website. The U.S. EPA defines “lead-free” under the SDWA Act as a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead calculated across the wetted surface of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting and fixture, and 0.2 percent lead for solder and flux.
The SDWA also prohibits “the use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of (i) any public water system; or (ii) any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead free.”
The regulations also prohibit the sale of any pipe, plumbing fitting or fixture, solder or flux that is not lead-free, unless its use is for manufacturing or industrial purposes.
Schools can test their water for lead by first contacting the local regulatory authority to find out if the state or local jurisdiction has specific requirements. The U.S. EPA outlined a method of testing for lead in drinking water for schools and daycare centers in the Lead Contamination Control Act (1988), which also banned lead-lined water coolers and provided guidance on sampling water from faucets and drinking fountains when testing for lead in schools and daycare centers.
Visit leadfreeschools.com for additional information on drinking water standards and links to accredited water testing facilities by state.