How a Law, and the Brazing of Pipes, Made Water Safer for Millions
To the uninitiated, soldering and brazing seem like very similar joining techniques as they both involve the melting of a filler metal to join components together without melting the base material. The American Welding Society describes brazing as a process which involves a filler metal which has a liquidus* above 450°C (842°F), while soldering involves the use of filler metals with a liquidus 450°C and below.
With respect to soldering, a century ago lead materials were commonly used to join pipes because lead melted at relatively low temperatures and filled voids in pipes very well. It also complimented the relatively crude soldering equipment available at the time. Eventually, as public health information improved, piping was implicated in lead contamination and poisoning. It was a public health hazard that began to be addressed with urgency.
The establishment of safe drinking water for millions of Americans began on June 19, 1986, when Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The law prohibited the use of lead to join any pipe or plumbing fixture and banned the use of lead as a solder or flux. The SDWA also banned lead in the installation or repair of public or private water systems that provide water for human consumption. A maximum contaminant level (MCL) threshold for lead exposure was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Set at 50 parts per billion for drinking water, this extremely low limit helped usher in pipe brazing and other coupling techniques to replace the lead solder that had leached into supply pipes over time.
Today brazing is firmly established as the joining process of choice in modern plumbing systems. National ITC (NITC) qualifies plumbing and pipefitting candidates seeking to earn their brazing processes certifications within their respective trades, providing them with alignment with industry-recognized standards such as the STAR Plumbing Mastery exam and the STAR Steamfitting-Pipefitting Mastery exam. Additionally, NITC offers Practical Braze Tests, allowing candidates to cover the full range of copper tube sizes used (from ¼” to 8”) for the installation of Medical Gas Systems as required by the latest editions of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 99 Healthcare Facilities Code along with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Section IX Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code.
Whether you’re a training director, association representative, employer representative, or an individual applicant, NITC is there to help you along the way. Contact NITC at (877) 457-6482 to learn more about how our products help prepare the best, most reliable, and safest trade professionals possible through our wide range of industry certifications, while helping you exceed customer expectations in the process. Have your personnel certified with the certification company, National ITC, today!
*Liquidus refers to a curve in a graph of the temperature and composition of a mixture above which the substance is entirely liquid.