Lead in Schools

Lead is a common and hazardous contaminant in plumbing systems of older homes and buildings including schools. There are three main sources:

  • Lead service lines connecting the building plumbing systems to the public water distribution system, which most often occur in buildings constructed prior to 1950
  • Lead solder used in copper piping systems prior to 1986
  • Lead-containing brass or galvanized pipe and fittings that are not certified to the NSF/ANSI 61 standard, which includes many products manufactured prior to the mid-1990s

Although rarely found in source water, lead can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials, mainly due to aging pipes and plumbing components. In the U.S., laws limit the amount of allowable lead in plumbing products to a weighted average of 0.25% or less.

Where Can I Find Lead-Free Products?

You can find plumbing products that are NSF certified as lead-free according to the U.S. EPA requirements by searching our listings below:

You can also look for the NSF certification mark or standard number on a product or packaging to ensure you are buying a tested plumbing product.

Certified products produced prior to 2014 may be marked with NSF/ANSI 61G, NSF® pw-G, NSF/ANSI 372 or NSF® 372, while products produced after January 4, 2014 may display NSF/ANSI 61, NSF® pw, NSF/ANSI 372 or NSF® 372 markings.

Products may also display one of the certification marks below (either as a logo or text):

NSF/ANSI 61 Mark NSF/ANSI 372 Mark

If you have additional questions about certification of a plumbing product, contact the NSF International Consumer Hotline at 1.800.673.8010 or info@nsf.org.

What Does Lead-Free Mean?

Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) establishes the definition of lead-free as a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead calculated across the wetted surfaces of a pipe, pipe fitting, plumbing fitting and fixture, and 0.2 percent lead for solder and flux. The Act also provides a methodology for calculating the weighted average of wetted surfaces.

The method of evaluating products to these lead-free requirements are found in NSF/ANSI 372: Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content. This standard is referenced directly in many plumbing codes and product standards including NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects. Third-party certification of products in contact with drinking water to NSF/ANSI 61 is a nationwide requirement (for more information, see NSF International Drinking Water Plumbing Standards below).

The SDWA also prohibits the “use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of (i) any public water system; or (ii) any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead free.” It also prohibits introducing a pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder or any flux that is not lead-free into commerce, unless the use is for manufacturing or industrial purposes.

The SDWA includes several exemptions from the lead-free requirements, specifically for plumbing devices that are used exclusively for nonpotable services, and for these specific products: toilets, bidets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, fire hydrants, tub fillers, shower valves, service saddles and water distribution main gate valves that are 2 inches in diameter or larger.

How Is Water in Schools Tested for Lead?

Before testing water for lead, please consult your local regulatory authority to find out if your state or local jurisdiction has specific requirements.

The U.S. EPA has outlined a method for testing for lead in drinking water for schools and day care centers in the Lead Contamination Control Act (1988). The Act banned lead-lined water coolers and provided guidance on sampling water from faucets and drinking fountains in schools and daycare centers for lead. The recommended procedure is collecting a 250 mL first draw sample from the outlet, after water has stagnated in the building for between eight and 18 hours. The acceptable limit on the concentration of lead in the 250 mL sample is 20 micrograms per liter.

However, implementation and enforcement of the testing portion of the Act is at each state’s discretion.

Accredited Laboratories for Chemical Analyses of Drinking Water by State

When testing water samples for lead, it is important and required by many states to use a state-certified drinking water laboratory or a lab that is approved by the U.S. EPA. The U.S. EPA has compiled a list of approved water testing labs for lead for each state.

About NSF International and Its Role Certifying Plumbing Products

NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization that writes consensus-based national standards for the safety, health and performance of food, water and consumer products that minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. This includes developing standards for drinking water treatment products, including plumbing supplies, and testing these products to ensure their compliance to NSF and other consensus-based standards. For example, we can verify that a plumbing component does not contribute harmful contaminants to drinking water.

NSF International Standards Development Process

NSF International uses a consensus process to develop national standards, with input from regulators (including the U.S. EPA), consumers, academia and industry. NSF International is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for standards development and product certification. All of NSF’s drinking water certification programs are accredited by ANSI to ensure objectivity and transparency (ANSI-Accredited Product Certification Body - Accreditation #2016).  Additionally, NSF International standards receive public health endorsement from its Council of Public Health Consultants which is comprised of representatives from government, academia and public health. Products that are used in homes and schools (e.g. water filters, faucets and drinking fountains) are then tested against the criteria of these standards as a benchmark to make sure they are safe for use.

NSF International Drinking Water Plumbing Standards

Plumbing products that come in contact with drinking water are covered under two standards, NSF/ANSI 61 and NSF/ANSI 372. Certification to either standard means products do not contribute dangerous amounts of lead to the drinking water supply.

NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water Treatment System Components – Health Effects sets the minimum requirements for the control of potential adverse human health effects for products that come in contact with drinking water. This standard evaluates various harmful chemical contaminants, including lead, that may be introduced to the drinking water as a result of the materials used in the product.

Manufacturers voluntarily submit faucets, plumbing products or components to NSF International for independent testing and certification to NSF/ANSI 61. NSF performs a thorough product review and evaluation, and conducts rigorous product testing to verify that the product meets the requirements of the standard. NSF experts review product formulations, product use and toxicology as well as conduct manufacturing facility audits and product testing.

NSF/ANSI 372: Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content establishes procedures for determining lead content based on the wetted surface areas of products. This standard applies to any drinking water system component that conveys or dispenses water for human consumption through drinking or cooking.

Certification to these standards also means the product meets the U.S. EPA’s regulations regarding lead-containing products. These plumbing products may be marked lead-free, which means they meet the EPA’s requirement of under 0.25 percent weighted lead content.