On January 4, 2014, all brass alloy product intended for potable water applications must comply with the US Federal Law 111-380. This law applies to plumbing products intended for conveying or dispensing water for human consumption. It defines “lead free” material as containing not more than 0.25% weighted average lead for wetted surface areas. Products intended for use in manufacturing, industrial processing and irrigation are not affected.
No lead brass/bronze alloys are more expensive and impose a series of challenges for the manufacturer, significantly raising the costs to produce the finished product. The pricing differential for standard versus no lead brass/bronze material is from 25% to 50%.
Legend’s Downstream Thinking® will help you manage the requirements of this new law. Our guaranteed performance will assist you with managing your conversion. With Legend’s guaranteed 24-hour shipping, 100% line item fill rate, 100% line item order accuracy, no order minimum or quantity requirement…buy what you need.
No Lead Brass and Bronze Alloys
Many no lead brass and bronze alloys are available today and more are being developed to meet the growing demand for no lead products. Most plumbing valves and fittings are made with brass and bronze alloys that contain lead. Lead is added to the alloys for the purpose of improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process. As a consequence; eliminating the trace amounts of lead currently found in brass and bronze alloys dramatically slows the manufacturing process, causes premature tool wear, and increases the rejection rate of production run. As a result no lead products may costs as much as 50% more than traditional products. All current no lead alloys are affected by this change.
In order to comply with the new no lead federal law, the lead content in the alloy has to be greatly reduced. Therefore, another element must be used as a substitute to facilitate the advantages lead provides to any alloy during the manufacturing processes. The most common alloys are silicon brass/bronze, bismuth brass/bronze and binary brasses.
Legend utilizes all three alternatives dependent upon the product and its intended application. This assures the proper product performance for our customers, at the most competitive prices.
Silicon Brass / Bronze
Silicon brass/bronze materials are copper alloys that remove lead from the material and add a small amount of silicon (2%-4%) to improve the performance of the alloy during the manufacturing processes. Eco-Brass™* is a popular type of silicon brass.
Advantages: Provides good manufacturing capabilities for casting, forging, and machining. Copper silicon alloys are naturally corrosion resistant and readily pass new dezincification requirements resulting in some manufacturers allowing direct burial of products made from these materials. High temperature performance is very good.
Disadvantages: There can be issues in soldering silicon brass materials; special care needs to be used to produce good soldered joints. Although performing very well in most other desired attributes, silicon brasses are more expensive than other no lead alternatives. There are also some recycling issues as silicon brasses cannot be mixed with their non-silicon counterparts, thus increasing production costs.
*Eco-Brass is the registered trademark of Mitsubishi Shindoh Co., Ltd.
Bismuth Brass / Bronze
Bismuth brass/bronze materials are also copper alloys that remove lead from the compound, substituting a small amount of bismuth (0.5%-4%) to aid in the processes during manufacturing. There are over 20 ASTM specified material listings for approved bismuth brass/bronze alloys.
Advantages: Provides good manufacturing capabilities for casting, forging, and machining. Bismuth alloys also solder just like standard brasses and bronzes. Recycling is easier than with materials containing silicon, but separation from standard brasses is recommended.
Disadvantages: Performance at high temperatures can be an issue with bismuth materials. Legend avoids this issue in our products by specifying very low amounts of bismuth in our alloys and utilizing alternative materials for finished goods that are likely to encounter heat during use.
Binary brasses are made from primarily two elements: copper and zinc. There are no additional materials added to aid in the machining process. These materials have been proven effective from their widespread use in Europe over a long period of time.
Advantages: Binary alloys offer very good high temperature performance and have excellent soldering capability, the same as standard brasses. Recycling is a non-issue and these materials can be mixed and recycled with standard brasses and bronzes.
Disadvantages: Because of the lack of additional elements to aid in the machining process, these materials by nature are difficult to machine. Special manufacturing equipment and additional items (chip breakers) may be required.
No Lead Product Identification
All Legend no lead brass/bronze alloy product model numbers and item numbers are easy to identify and order. Legend simply adds the suffix “NL” to both the model and item number to identify the no lead version of each product we offer. For example: our popular model number “T/S-1001” ball valve simply becomes “T/S-1001NL”. If you are ordering a ½” size S-1001 sweat ball valve, you would order item number 101-043 for the standard version and item number 101-043NL for the no lead version.
Depending on the Legend no lead brass/bronze alloy product, it will be marked with a symbol signifying it is compliant in the cast or forged body, handle, or lever. In some instances the product will be signified as compliant only by the hang tag or bag. A typical mark in a casting is depicted here:
Product Tags and Plastic Bags
Legend is also adding a hang tag or labeled plastic bag to all of our plumbing products for easy identification of no lead and leaded products. No lead products will be clearly identified as seen here. Standard product will identified as well with the tag below clearly identifying it not for potable water systems.
Similar to the hang tags, products containing lead will include the statement “not for potable water use” after January 1, 2014. No Lead products will also be easily identified by the clear words “No Lead” in their description as well as the aforementioned “NL” suffix following all item and model numbers. In order for easier warehouse identification and segregation, Legend also includes a bright orange No Lead symbol as seen here.