Low Lead Brass

A short discussion about global regulations

Low lead brass
Brass Machining

Picchi, the manufacturer of transfer machines and machining centres has to deal everyday with important topics regarding machining materials which are difficult to machine, in particular leadless brass.
The massive presence of lead in brass is very harmful for the health.
As far as valves and cocks are concerned, standards had already been introduced in Germany, Scandinavia, Canada and the United States at the beginning of the Eighties until NSF61 regulations came into force during the Nineties, placing limitations on metallurgical companies for the production of brasses with low lead contents.

Regulations in the United States

In January 2010 with Assembly Bill 1953, California was the first state in the USA to limit the use of lead in metallic materials which come into contact with water destined for human consumption. In 1996, amendments to the US Safety Drinking Water Act (SDWA) established that pipe fittings and connectors, introduced onto the market after 6th August 1998, had to be leadless. Consequently, products such as cocks, had to have lead levels under the limit of 0.011 mg/l, while for valves the limit was 0.015 mg/l.
In 2011, with his own signature, the president of the USA launched Law 111-380 which ratified, all over the federal territory, the reduction of lead contained in materials in contact with drinking water such as pipe fittings and valves, from the historic 8% to 0.25% (0.2% for welds and fluxes). Law 111-380 adopts the criterion defined in California according to which the limit of lead equal to 0.25% must refer to the average pondered value calculated on surfaces bathed by water destined for human consumption.

Regulations in Europe

Instead, in Europe, regulations are late compared with Canada and the United States, even if some countries such as Germany, France, Great Britain, Holland and Denmark have issued regulations through the UBA  (“German Environment Agency”) which, from 2003 to 2013, established the limit of lead as 0.0025%, twice as much compared with the quantity recommended by the WHO. Only after 2013 was the limit lowered to 0.01 mg/l, as suggested by the WHO.
In the specific case of Italy, in 2004 the Ministry of Health issued decree no. 174, which then came into force in 2007, according to which the percentage of lead allowed in brass must be 3.5% or less. Expired in 2012, the annexes of the decree are still undergoing revision to define the strategy to be followed, whether to introduce a new one or whether to use the one adopted by other European states.
In Europe, today, brass components with a maximum of 1% of their surface area in contact with water must have a lead percentage of 3.5%, while those with a maximum of 10% can be made with a lead percentage of 2.2%. Finally, above 10% of the surface in contact with water, the lead percentage must be a maximum of 0.2%.


Continue to read to discover the technological aspects linked to leadless brass and the solutions proposed by Picchi.

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