Archive for the ‘Consumer Products’ Category

Rising to the Challenge of New Regulations: How One Industry is Adapting

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Jim 2009Jim Michel, Copper Development Association

Manager, Technical Services

Jim Michel is a metallurgist who received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri – Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology) and his master’s in metallurgical engineering from Ohio State University.  He joined the CDA in 2007.  He works with the Technical Services Group, registering new copper alloys, answering technical questions and sharing information across a range of subject areas.

Here’s an example of how social change drives technology.  There’s a movement across the United States to reduce the possibility of lead contamination in drinking water.  For example, the state of California has enacted low-lead requirements that take effect January 1, 2010 for plumbing fittings and fixtures.  Vermont has adopted a similar regulation.  So companies that manufacture faucets, valves, water meters and other plumbing components want to use new copper alloys for their products.

iStock_000003232503XSmall-Kitchen SinkIn order to maintain quality and consistency, each of these new alloys has to be registered with the CDA and given a five-digit UNS (Unified Numbering System) number.  That’s where we in the CDA’s Technical Services Group come in.  Companies proposing to manufacture and sell new copper alloys visit the CDA Web site and fill out a form for review by the Technical Services Advisory Committee.  The most important information in registering a new alloy is providing the chemical composition.  Other properties, like the physical, mechanical and electrical properties, are also important but the primary focus of the committee is chemical composition.  The committee meets in June and December to evaluate proposals and issue the UNS numbers.  All UNS numbers pertaining to copper have the prefix “C” before the digits. 

With faucets and other water-handling pieces of equipment, the plumbing industry is one of the most affected by these new requirements.  Many of our colleagues there worked diligently to have new products with the lower lead compositions into the marketplace on or before Jan 1, 2009.  So they were a full year to a year-and-a-half ahead of time in being responsive to this law.  

But the alloy registration requests continue to come in.  On average the committee has a handful of proposals to review.  But because of this movement to reduce lead exposure, there have been a lot of applications lately, 14 or 15 in June of 2009 alone.  And I expect we’ll continue to have large numbers of proposals coming through for some time.  So you see, when a social change like this movement to reduce the possibility lead exposure occurs, it creates a huge ripple effect as companies develop new technology to help meet the needs of society.

To see the various categories of alloys, visit the Resources section of the CDA Web site.