This American National Standard limits the amount of impurities that individual products can introduce into a home’s water supply, including lead and other metals, volatile organic chemicals, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Products covered by this standard include faucets, pipe, drinking water fountains, water meters and water storage tanks.
Because of concerns about the leaching of lead and other impurities into drinking water, all kitchen and bathroom faucets sold in the U.S. are required to meet the lead leaching requirements of American National Standard NSF/ANSI/CAN 61. Certification to this standard is noted on the product packaging and may also be on the product. If you don’t see the NSF mark or a reference to NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 certification on the product or packaging, the faucet may not be intended for drinking water use.
Avoid drinking water from outdoor spigots, laundry tub faucets, bathtub spigots and utility sinks. Because these products are not intended for dispensing drinking water, they are not required to meet the same material safety standards as kitchen and bathroom faucets.
Copper, CPVC, PVC and PEX are just a few of the material options available for residential plumbing uses. When searching for plumbing products, it’s helpful to understand the common types of plumbing products and their intended usages.
Copper tubing is one of the most widely used home plumbing materials. Not all copper tubing is intended for drinking water, so look for certification to NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 if your end use involves drinking water contact.
Professional installation or some plumbing knowledge is usually needed, as the use of soldering compounds or compression fittings is necessary to join the various sections of pipe. In situations where the pH of the water is below 6.5, copper tubing is generally not recommended as there is the potential for copper to leach from the pipe into drinking water. Homeowners with acidic water should install an acid neutralizer to help raise pH before installing copper tubing or consider using pipes made of materials other than metal, such as PVC, CPVC or PEX.
Plastic plumbing has been used for potable and non-potable water applications since the 1950s.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used in the production of a wide array of pipes and fittings, including those used for transporting both drinking water and wastewater. Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is most commonly used for drinking water applications only.
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) has become a popular option for new construction as well as remodeling projects due to its flexibility. Unlike rigid pipes, PEX does not require 90-degree fittings to make turns. Many PEX products are also tested to withstand high temperatures and can be used for both hot and cold water supply lines as well as for radiant floor heating applications.
Several additional plumbing-related products can be used in homes in addition to the pipes themselves. These products can include cements and primers for PVC pipes, hot water dispensers and pipe coatings. Because water can pick up substances from any material that it touches, it’s important to make sure that all plumbing materials used in the home’s potable water supply meet the NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 standard for contact with drinking water.
Most plumbing products will bear a certification mark indicating for what application the product received certification, e.g., NSF-pw for potable water or NSF-rfh for radiant floor heating applications.