With the adapted European Drinking Water Directive 2020, the limit value for lead for drinking water will be halved from today's value of 10 μg/l to 5 μg/l at the tap. The currently valid limit value for lead of 10 μg/l continues to apply during a transition period of 15 years until 12 January 2036.
In addition, the European chemicals regulation REACH put lead on the candidate list of substances of very high concern on 27 June 2018. It is foreseeable that REACH will put lead on the prohibited list of substances in the near future and therefore lead has to disappear from all products.
These two new regulations have an impact on the alloys used by Georg Fischer JRG AG.
The European Union (EU) passed a new Drinking Water Directive in December 2020, which is in force since 1 January 2021. The existing directive was evaluated concerning its efficiency and performance based on the “Right2Water” campaign. With the “Right2Water” campaign, the European Union and its member states are committed to implementing the human right to water and sanitary facilities. The campaign has three stated goals: Guaranteed water and sanitation for everyone in Europe and no liberalization of the water supply. The new Drinking Water Directive provides, among other things, stricter limit values for harmful substances in drinking water. In this context, the current limit value for lead in drinking water has been halved from 10 μg/l to 5 μg/l at the tap. There is a transition period of 15 years until 12 January 2036. However, the limit value for lead in drinking water of 5 μg/l should be used already as the target value wherever possible.
REACH is the European Chemicals Regulation that came into force in 2007 for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. Substances manufactured by companies or imported into the European Union must be registered at the European Chemicals Authority ECHA. REACH aims to ensure a high level of protection for human health and the environment. Substances of very high concern (SVHC) are substances that have been selected as possible candidates for an authorization procedure under the REACH regulation. The material lead has been listed on the SVHC candidate list of the REACH regulation since 27 June 2018. It is foreseeable that REACH will put the material lead on the prohibited list in the near future and therefore the material lead has to disappear from all products.
The Drinking Water Directive on the one hand and the REACH regulation on the other hand are decisive for the lead content. While the Drinking Water Directive is relevant to the industrial sector, the REACH regulation affects the entire industry. For products manufactured by Georg Fischer JRG AG, both the Drinking Water Directive and the REACH regulation apply to components in contact with drinking water, while only the REACH regulation applies to components without contact with drinking water. For the conversion of the product range to lead-free materials, it can be assumed that the deadlines of the REACH regulation will be the more time-critical factor compared to the drinking water directive.
The lead limit value was gradually reduced over 15 years from 45 μg/l to today's valid limit value of 10 μg/l, which is relevant since 2013. The WHO assesses a lead content of 10 μg/l as unproblematic, but recommends lowering it to 5 μg/l as well.
Today's lead-containing alloys can be installed without hesitation until 12 January 2036, as they do not exceed the limit value of 10 μg/l for lead release into drinking water. After 12 January 2036 however, only lead-free components are allowed to be installed that do not exceed the limit value for lead release into drinking water of 5 μg/l. Relevant is the date, when the drinking water installation will be put into service and not when it will actually be built.