The New California Lead Free Law: Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
The changes are coming, and watching from the sidelines will only allow your competition to get in the game sooner and more often than you.
Often, when we see or hear about new laws or changes to existing laws coming down the pike from our state legislatures, our backsides clinch up a bit as we sit in our executive chairs wondering how compliance will eat into company profits. We avoid, delay, ignore or refuse to participate in or even acknowledge their existence in the hope they will just fade away. That had to be what many auto manufacturers and dealers thought when California introduced the nation’s first automobile emissions standards in 1966.
On the surface California Health and Safety Code (116875, subd. (b), as specified in SB 1334, Stat. 2008, c.580) and Vermont Senate Bill S.0152 may give you the same feeling. But for those national plumbing manufacturers along with California and Vermont plumbing distributors who choose to embrace it, there may be a “lead free” lining that just might take a bite out of the current economic recession we find ourselves in.
While this amendment to the California Health and Safety Code, often referred to as AB 1953 among industry insiders, provides a stringent “lead free” solution to California’s potable water supply, it also creates an avenue for increased sales and profits in an industry segment that is otherwise currently stagnant.
Existing law in California already prohibited the introduction into commerce of any pipe, pipe or plumbing fitting, or fixture that is not lead free. The summary of this amendment states that… “Existing law commencing on January 1, 2010 redefines the term “lead free” for purposes of manufacturing, industrial processing, and conveying or dispensing water for human consumption, to refer not to the lead content of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures, but instead, to refer to the weighted average lead content of the wetted surface area of the pipes, fittings, and fixtures of not more than 0.25% to be determined by a pre-described formula.” It further requires the Department of Public Health to develop building standards that implement the above described provisions, and see that they are enforced by the appropriate state and local building and health officials. It further requires that all “lead free” material used in pipe and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures be certified for compliance by an independent third party. The Vermont legislation, signed by their governor on June 7, 2008, requires an identical industry standard by the same January 1, 2010 deadline.
At a recent meeting of the California Metals Coalition, executive director James Simonelli said, “It’s the strictest regulation establishing mandated lower lead content levels in the nation. It affects everybody because we all use drinking water.
“Not only will this impact companies in California that manufacture metal parts such as faucets and pipe, but also anyone who sells products for use in drinking water systems in California,” he said.
Acting under the authority of the California State Legislature and the governor, the California Department of Toxic Substances has issued several fact sheets on the subject that can be found on their Web site: http:// www.dtsc.ca.gov/www.dtsc.ca.gov. The August fact sheet deals specifically with the formula that should be used when calculating the weighted average of lead content within the wetted surface of a plumbing product. It also indicates that they will be enforcing the new legislation by securing up to 75 drinking water faucets and other drinking water plumbing fittings and fixtures annually for testing and evaluation to determine compliance with the new lead content standards. These items will be taken directly from locations that are readily accessible to the public at either the retail or wholesale level. The results will be posted annually on their Web site and submitted to the California Department of Public Health for review.
So what does all of this really mean to us in the industry? Well to start with, it means that every ice maker that is repaired, every new sink that is installed, every garden hose that is sold, every beverage line that is hooked up in every establishment in the great states of California and Vermont, along with thousands of other applications, will need lead free pipe, fittings, valves and fixtures. There are more than 36 million people consuming or using drinking water every day in California. That is over 10% of the total U.S. population. Many will be looking for immediate ways to remove the contamination from their drinking water at home, at their business and in their public facilities even though they are under no imminent danger. Their motivation for change may simply be to improve the health of themselves and/or their family, or to avoid potential litigation and further government involvement in their personal or corporate lives.Whatever their motivation, the changes to the law will result in a direct reaction by stakeholders who reside in or sell products within the state of California.
What it really means is that there are some tremendous sales and marketing opportunities to take advantage of over the next six to 12 months and beyond. Do you have a strategy to get these products into the marketplace? Have you targeted current or potential new customers who will have a specific need for these products in the near term? Have you looked for suppliers who have already developed products that conform to the standard and can help you be in compliance by the January 2010 start date? If you answered no to any of these questions you are probably one of those “glass is half-empty” type people and you may want to catch up to the “glass is half-full” people in the industry who already have product in place on their shelves and are ready to assist the end user stakeholders with this transition. If you answered yes to all of the questions you are well on your way to creating your own business stimulus package for the end of 2009 and beyond.
If you are uncertain of how to proceed in order to get up to speed with lead free products, the Internet can be a great resource. There you can find numerous manufacturers and suppliers who are already offering products that are in full compliance with the new legislation. Most if not all of these suppliers are domestic manufacturers who have a firm grasp on the nuances of the legislation as well as the certification requirements of these products. They will also help you avoid long lead times.
The Internet is also a great place to find new sales leads in your industry segment or geographic area, many of which may not even be aware of the changes to the law. The main thing is not to sit on the sidelines waiting to see what will happen. The changes are coming and watching from the sidelines will only allow your competition to get in the game sooner and more often than you. By actively participating in the changes you will become more knowledgeable and prepared for the inevitable changes that will come to the rest of the country just as they did in the auto industry over 40 years ago. California has a habit of leading the rest of us, just like it did Vermont, kicking and screaming toward a cleaner and greener environment - and it is highly likely that the same thing will happen with the future quality of our drinking water across the nation.