- Official EPA Lead web site
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
- List of Drinking Water Contaminants and MCLs
- Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988
- Lead and Copper Rule of 1991
- Lead and Copper Rule Revisions of 2001 and 2006
- Lead Contamination Control and Asbestos Information Acts of 1988
- Lead and Copper Rule Targeting and Sampling Requirements
- Lead in Drinking Water
- Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Non-Residential Buildings
Brass is a copper alloy that contains:
- zinc (5-40%) as the principal alloying element,
- silicon, and
Zinc is added to brass to increase tensile strength. Tensile strength is the greatest stress a substance can bear without tearing apart. Lead is added to improve “machinability.” Materials with good machinability require little power to cut, can be cut quickly, easily obtain a good finish, and do not wear the tooling as much. Lead also makes castings pressure tight by filling the voids created as the casting cools. In the past, brass, used to make household fixtures, contained 1.5-7.5% lead.
Solder is a metallic compound used to seal plumbing joints. In the past, most solders contained about 50% lead.
Distribution Systems and Household Plumbing
Homes that have lead solder, or homes that are connected to the water main by a lead service line, are more likely to have higher levels of lead in their water. Experts regard this lead-containing solder as one of the major causes of lead contamination of household drinking water in U.S. homes.
Corrosion Characteristics and Concerns
Brass fixtures and solder act as sources of dissolution corrosion. Dissolution refers to the dissolving of the metals (that make up the alloy) into the liquid in contact with the metal. In this way, metals such as lead, copper, chromium, and cadmium can dissolve from brass fittings into our drinking water.
Brass fixtures (including faucets) act as sources for dezincification corrosion. Dezincification is the leaching of zinc from the alloy, leaving behind a porous, copper-rich structure that has little mechanical strength. This weakens water pipes and result in blockages.
The 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act banned the use of solders containing more than 0.2 percent lead in public water systems and household plumbing. The use of lead in pipes and brass fixtures was restricted to 8 percent or less under the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996. Despite this regulation, lead-containing solder may still exist in older water systems and homes.
Results and Impact