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Federal bill to 'get the lead out' of plumbing fixtures clears first hurdle

May 21, 2010 | 12:41 pm

FaucetFederal "Get the Lead Out" legislation that would update the national lead content standard and dramatically reduce the amount of lead used in faucets and fixtures cleared its first hurdle Wednesday. The Get the Lead Out Act passed out of the House subcommittee on energy and environment and has moved to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for review. 

H.R. 5289 would reduce the allowable lead content in plumbing fixtures from its current limit of 8% to 0.25%. It follows A.B. 1953, the lead-limit law that passed in California in 2006 and has since been adopted in Vermont and Maryland.

"Working with pediatricians on other issues relating to lead and what it does to children has been nothing short of appalling to me. That's why it's so exciting we take this step," said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, (D-Menlo Park), who authored the bill.

Eshoo cited brain damage, kidney problems and high blood pressure as some of the problems caused by lead exposure. Other environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is one of several sponsors of the House bill, say lead has also been linked to hyperactivity, attention disturbances and intellectual development problems in children.

Faucets and fixtures contribute up to 20% of human lead exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. H.R. 5289 estimates that the health effects of lead exposure cost more than $43 billion annually in lost time, healthcare costs and related matters.

"We are supporting it," said Barbara Higgens, executive director for the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute in Rolling Meadows, Ill. "We want the standard across all 50 states and for any importer to be held to the same standard."

Higgens' group has requested that plumbing manufacturers be given 36 months from the date the bill passes to comply with the lower lead standard. The group was given four years to comply with the California lead-free standard, which required manufacturers to phase out potential exposure from materials in drinking water plumbing by 2010.

While California has passed two subsequent bills to enforce the state's lead standard -- requiring third-party certification to verify manufacturers' compliance -- the federal legislation does not include that language. According to Eshoo, oversight of manufacturers will fall to the EPA, which has the authority to third-party certify their compliance.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Business WIre