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I'm shopping for brass or stainless ball valve to replace shutoff on a plumbing line. I see on ebay that some valves are advertised as "lead-free" while others are not. I would've assumed ALL brass/SS valves are lead-free. If I'm concerned with lead, do I need to screen specifically for lead?

  • Some types of brass contain a significant percent lead. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass : "To enhance the machinability of brass, lead is often added in concentrations of around 2% [which] can lead to significant lead leaching from brasses of comparatively low lead content." – Jim Stewart Nov 6 '17 at 13:06
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    Can you be sold them in what jurisdiction? – David Richerby Nov 6 '17 at 14:45
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    On eBay - sure. From a reputable vendor as water plumbing - less likely, but as plumbing for heating, yes. – Ecnerwal Nov 6 '17 at 14:51
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    Seems relevant: imgs.xkcd.com/comics/free.png – MonkeyZeus Nov 6 '17 at 17:39
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    The type of plumbing is very relevant here. Laws for potable water supplies are very much more strict than general plumbing (waste, heating, garden, etc). – Oli Nov 7 '17 at 12:43
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If you go to your local hardware store, no. Products sold in the US have to be lead free, since 1996

In 1996 Congress further amended the Safe Drinking Water Act, requiring plumbing fittings and fixtures (endpoint devices) to be in compliance with voluntary lead leaching standards. The amendments also prohibited the introduction into commerce of any pipe, pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture that is not lead free.

Ebay is a bit of the "wild west", because you often have products sold direct to consumers from foreign countries (i.e. they bypass US regulations because they're sold and shipped from that country to you directly). It's easy to find Chinese or Indian products on there, and neither country has that prohibition against lead. So, yes, you probably need to screen on Ebay. If it's a serious concern for you, just buy from a US company or your local hardware store.

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    +1 for buy from a US company or your local hardware store. Even though I'm not from the US. It's worth realizing there are no obvious bonuses when buying locally, including laws governing manufacture and sale. – DRF Nov 6 '17 at 15:32
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    @DRF You mean non-obvious? – user253751 Nov 6 '17 at 22:46
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    Buying from a US company is not adequate. The major US industrial supply company I get parts from lists a wide variety of leaded brass pipes and fittings, intended for industrial applications. They note which ones are approved for potable water. – user71659 Nov 7 '17 at 2:15
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    @immibis Yeap. My bad. – DRF Nov 7 '17 at 6:29
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    The problem with this answer is the law it's based on only applies to the "wetted surfaces" of pipes, fittings and joining compounds that provide "water for human consumption". Plumbing is more than potable water. Given the useful properties of lead, it seems entirely plausible that pipes and fittings not intended for water for human consumption can still be bought with lead in them. Netduke's answer doesn't quote the law for potable water supplies but is a more accurate answer to this question as it stands. – Oli Nov 7 '17 at 12:39
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There are plenty of plumbing fittings used for non-potable water that are still being made which contain lead in the brass alloy. The lead free ball valves usually have a NSF icon on them.

Ball valves are used in many applications and industries and only the ones used specifically for drinking water would need to be lead free.

For example:

Leaded http://www.watts.com/pages/_products_details.asp?pid=3391

Non-Leaded http://www.watts.com/pages/_products_details.asp?pid=6836

Its hard to tell if it is lead free or not just by the look, you may have to look up its part number online to find out.

  • What tells you on the Watts website that the valve you linked is leaded? – JPhi1618 Nov 7 '17 at 15:42
  • Only their lead free model is NSF certified to be safe for drinking water, and the lead free part number begins with LF. The physical valve also has the letters "LF" on the body. – Netduke Nov 9 '17 at 13:11

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